U.K. Pubs Slam ‘Deafening’ Government Silence on Business Aid
(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s independent pubs and brewers are attacking the government after another day of silence on support for the hospitality sector hit hard by the omicron variant.
Neither further restrictions nor help for business was announced upon the conclusion of a three-hour Cabinet meeting Monday, which was convened by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the government’s response to the worsening health crisis. The silence is “deafening” and warrants an “urgent” response by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, a brewing industry group said.
“The threat of further restrictions and a possible lockdown is keeping people away from pubs and hospitality venues and hitting small breweries sales hard,” James Calder, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers, said in a blog post Monday. “Further restrictions would see many businesses close for good.”
Hospitality and leisure companies are losing sales as people voluntarily isolate at the government’s request, even though there is no formal lockdown. Restrictions are currently limited to mask wearing in indoor public spaces, a working from home order and a “Covid Pass” from the National Health Service for events, which shows vaccination status or test results.
The industry is calling for monetary support as the collapse in sales over the critical holiday period is pushing some to the brink. Business groups are asking for forbearance on loans, tax and rent payments, and say they’ll need more help if activities are limited further.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng held a call with industry groups after the Cabinet meeting, but wasn’t committed to providing support at this stage, one person with knowledge of the conversation said.
Asked about the difficulties hospitality businesses are facing, Johnson said “I regret that.” He added that there are existing packages of support, including 250 million pounds ($330 million) of unused grants. He acknowledged that firms are “suffering.”
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