For an industry already under pressure, the latest mini-lockdown measures unveiled by the government on Wednesday will undoubtedly be damaging, but nowhere near as worrying as the impact the announcement will have on public confidence, the industry trade bodies say.
For a government addicted to slogans, it’s latest attempt of ‘hands, face, space’ finds itself up against a somewhat catchier phrase – ‘Christmas is cancelled’ was the conclusion many commentators drew from Wednesday’s press conference on the new mini-lockdown measures coming into force next week. And that is not good for business.
The Johnson-Whitty double act did little to instill confidence in the marketplace, nor did it give the full clarity businesses were hoping for. What it did do however, was to hand much of the onus and responsibility for enacting the measures back to a business community, already struggling to keep heads above water.
Hospitality venues will now be legally obliged to conduct track and trace, taking contact details from one member of every party. They will be required to self-police group numbers to a maximum of six and ensure that their venues are Covid secure or face £1,000 fines.
There will be Covid-19 secure marshals patrolling the streets, presumably, to enforce the new measures; times of opening for venues will be controlled in certain areas; and more focus will be placed on local lockdowns with 10pm curfews on the options list.
The workplace will be exempted from the new restrictions, although confidence in coming back to the office will be severely dented by the rules.
The hospitality industry was quick to respond – albeit in vaguer terms than hoped given the detail offered during the announcement lacked the necessary time or room for the devil to play its part. But there was sufficient information to merit a blend of caution and support from the industry.
For Bacta, chief executive John White spoke to Coinslot as it was despatching its update to members, and the devil was very much in mind. “I have written to members already,” White advised us. “But the devil is always in the detail. We can’t be entirely sure it applies to arcades yet. We will be keeping a close eye on the detail and advising members of any new requirements they may have to follow.”
He added: “Whilst customers up to the risk assessed limit will still be allowed, members will have to ensure no one group of more than six is permitted on the premises. We hope that any increase in enforcement is properly conducted. Bacta members have been universally praised for the way they have implemented our Covid- 19 guidance. I would be deeply concerned if they were picked up on making small decisions that differ from a local enforcement officer’s whilst egregious breaches of guidance go unaddressed.”
For the pub industry, probably the sector most impacted by the new measures, the BBPA concentrated more on what was needed to help the industry through it all. Chief executive Emma McClarkin responded:“It is important to understand that the changes to social gatherings announced will have an immediate cooling effect on public confidence to go out and visit our pubs. And will have a direct impact on trade that will be felt hard across an industry that is already struggling to get back on its feet. At such a delicate point in our recovery after a steady start this summer, as we head into Autumn and Winter where we expect trade to already slow down, this is very concerning.
“Pubs and breweries will need much more support from the Government if they are to survive. An extension on business rates relief, continuation of the VAT cut to food and soft drinks, a sector specific furlough extension and a significant beer duty cut are needed now. These measures, along with the welcomed compensation for businesses closed as a result of local lockdowns announced earlier today by The Treasury, will help pubs survive, protect jobs and ensure they can continue to serve our communities.
“Without this support from Government, and a clear message that pubs remain open for business and that the public should support them, our sector is in for a very rough end to an already devastating year.”