The government has confirmed that it will delay the final lifting of lockdown restrictions for a further month. This will entail continued social distancing, capacity restrictions, Covid measures in venues, facemasks and home working. MERKUR UK’s Sascha Blodau answers some important questions.
SASCHA BLODAU GENERAL MANAGER MERKUR UK
What impact will this delay have on your business?
MERKUR UK is heavily involved across the various verticals with leading brands active in high street entertainment, bingo and the pub sectors.
In high street entertainment our MERKUR Slots brand was looking forward to being able to operate without the need for face coverings and the social distancing aspects that are still in place certainly inhibit the community aspect that our customers value and appreciate from their MERKUR experience.
Although this part of the business has experienced a relatively positive start, taking a broader perspective any thing that reduces the appeal of a visit to the high street also impacts our venues which rely on footfall.
In the pub sector, where Regal plays a key role in the operating and management of gaming machines, vertical drinking is fundamental to a pub’s ability to earn revenue and move from simply being open to being open and trading profitably. Limitations on footfall once again impact machine play and machine utilisation.
Until pubs are allowed to trade at capacity there will be a significant proportion that remain shut with the inevitable business casualties that will lead to.
Operating on restricted numbers remains an issue for bingo. Our MERKUR Bingo clubs thrive on a positive, vibrant atmosphere. MERKUR Bingo in Cricklewood, which is Europe’s biggest capacity club, is a case in point. Our clubs and the bingo sector as whole needs’ to have ‘bums on seats’.
Overall, extending the restrictions is a constant reminder that we are still in the midst of the pandemic. Lifting the final restrictions will have, in turn, served to lift the spirits of the population which is so important to the entire industry.
It’s vitally important that the Government meets the 19 July timetable as seasonal businesses are totally dependent on every penny they can make over the summer.
Will extra support measures be required to ease the pressure for this extended period?
The Government has to ensure that the support measures remain in place if they are serious about their commitment to the private sector.
In addition, hospitality has demonstrated how important it is in driving economic recovery.
It did it in the post-war period and to a lesser extent after the financial crisis – without a healthy, vibrant hospitality sector the recovery will be slower and less dynamic.