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Hospitality Sector ‘Devastated’ at Reopening Roadmap

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Representatives of businesses in the UK’s hospitality sector have said they are “devastated” at the nature of government plans for a phased reopening of their industry.

The prime minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap this week that would eventually see the UK emerge from coronavirus-induced lockdowns towards the end of June, with a phased reopening of businesses happening at five-week intervals.

UK Hospitality, the industry’s main trade body, has called for the government to provide a “major package of financial support” to support businesses that it fears might be unable to survive further weeks of lockdown and enforced closure.

The organisation has warned that it expects the wait to reopen will prove too long for a significant number of hospitality businesses.

“This delay in reopening will make the job of survival all the more difficult for businesses only just clinging onto existence,” said UK Hospitality’s chief executive Kate Nicholls.

“It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay that they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive.”

Ms Nicholls went on to point out that while some of its members will be able to reopen once outdoor service becomes an option, there are many others who will still need to remain closed at that point.

Indeed, according to UK Hospitality, only 40 per cent of businesses in its sector have outdoor space of any sort at their disposal and for many of those their outdoor areas are limited to only a few chairs and tables.

Along with other restrictions being set to remain in place well into the summer months, there are concerns that many thousands of hospitality businesses will see coronavirus continuing to threaten their viability for some months to come.

Noting that government data suggests nearly two-thirds of hospitality businesses will run out of cash before May, Ms Nicholls said in a statement: “The job for the government now is to make sure that our sector survives this further period of closure intact.”

“We must also have an extension of the rent moratorium, with loan repayments and HMRC debt delayed in order to give businesses some breathing room from the ruinous mountain of debt that has built up for too many,” she added.

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