London restrictions risk quarter of a million hospitality jobs

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The introduction of tougher Covid-19 restrictions in London will put up to 250,000 hospitality jobs at risk.

Trade body UK Hospitality said the decision to bring London into the ‘tier 2 – high’ coronavirus restrictions, which ban people from different households from meeting indoors, will be “catastrophic” for restaurants, pubs and bars unless job support is improved and grants are made available immediately.

Other areas including Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, North East Derbyshire, Erewash, Chesterfield and York will also be brought into the tier 2 category.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Being moved into tier 2 is a curse for businesses. They will be trapped in a no man’s land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in tier 3. It is the worst of both worlds for businesses.

“Venues in London have already taken a hit due to the dip in inbound tourism and with people increasingly working from home. A move into tier 2 will now be catastrophic for some of them and it is only going to be made worse by the end of the furlough scheme in under two weeks.

“The government must remove employer contributions from the Job Support Scheme for hospitality or apply tier 3 job support to tier 2 businesses. If it does not, we are looking at catastrophic businesses closures and widespread job losses in the capital as early as 1 November.”

Under the extended Job Support Scheme, businesses required to shut under more stringent tier 3 restrictions can claim for 67% of workers’ wages from the government. Under the standard JSS, for businesses affected by tier 2 and tier 1 measures, the government will only contribute 22% of employees’ wages in situations where their usual hours have been cut, with the employer paying 55%.

Liverpool has brought in its own emergency fund to top up wages in firms affected by the tier 3 measures put in place there.

Earlier this week brewer and pub chain Marstons said it needed to axe 2,150 furloughed jobs, blaming government restrictions, while All Bar One and Harvester owner Mitchells & Butlers revealed it had begun redundancy consultations with an undisclosed number of staff.

Last week, Greene King said it would cut up to 800 jobs and close 79 pubs and restaurants, blaming the 10pm curfew and the end of the furlough scheme.

The British Beer and Pubs Association has previously warned that up to 300,000 hospitality jobs could be lost without further government intervention. People under 25 were likely to be disproportionately affected.

In a letter to Boris Johnson earlier this month, the BPPA and firms including Greene King, Heineken, JD Wetherspoon and Pizza Express said: “The 10pm curfew should be removed if demonstrably not working as intended or adjusted to provide for gradual dispersal and avoid the unintended consequences for the wider sector including cultural activities now impacted.”

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