Test and trace: hospitality warns 'unfair' restrictions put venues at risk

01 April 2021 by
Test and trace: hospitality warns 'unfair' restrictions put venues at risk

New test and trace rules requiring all customers to check-in to pubs, restaurants and cafes upon reopening have sparked criticism from business owners and trade bodies.

According to updated government guidance, every visitor aged 16 or over must provide contact details or check-in by using the NHS app or scanning a QR code.

Businesses must keep this data for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace if requested.

Venues must also "take reasonable steps" to refuse entry to those who decline to check-in, or face a "financial penalty".

Outdoor hospitality is expected to reopen from 12 April but with table service only, and it is unclear if payment can be taken inside at the bar. Ministers are also considering whether to bring in vaccine passports for hospitality.

Pubs and trade bodies have warned the measures put extra costs on businesses already saddled with debt and could see smaller venues permanently close.

"We've had the most appalling year in hospitality and the government is going to make our lives even more difficult," Kate Stewart, owner of the Sandon pub and hotel complex in Liverpool told The Caterer.

"I lost £40,000 of stock in the first lockdown and I've got to restock nine bars ahead of reopening this summer, which will cost in excess of £60,000-£70,000.

"We need more targeted support or there won't be a hospitality industry left. Bigger pub companies are announcing they're expanding but it is normal everyday publicans who will disappear."

Michelle Utz, owner of the Hoop, a village pub in Stock, Essex, said the table service rule meant businesses would have to hire more staff.

She said: "It changes the dynamics and adds a massive cost on to pubs. It feels like running a restaurant, where we take bookings and drinks orders from people sitting down. You have to have more staff on and fewer tables with distance around them, but hospitality will do whatever we have to to stay open."

UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) have written to the prime minister accusing the government of "backsliding" on reopening rules.

The group said in a statement: "Government has promised the country that we will be reopening but we are now being told that this will be with our hands tied behind our backs.

"It's unfair to single out our sector again with these added impractical burdens that will have economic consequences and risk our recovery.

"We want to trade our way back to prosperity, not rely on state handouts but if government insists on restricting our ability to trade then they will need to stump up more business support. We need to see a further extension of the business rates holiday through to October and more furlough support to save the millions of jobs we support."

Stewart added: "I feel like the industry has been used as a scapegoat. Either keep hospitality closed and give us more support or let us open normally."

Image: Shutterstock

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