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Restaurants Once Again Ask for Specific Support From the Government

U.K. Hospitality is again lobbying for rent relief and targeted job support

A masked waiter in white shirt and black jacket walks past a column of outdoor restaurant tables filled with diners in Soho, London
Restaurants look through the curfew to long-term meaures
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Multiple restaurant bodies have again put pressure on the government to provide specific support to the hospitality industry that they represent. U.K. Hospitality, led by Kate Nicholls, has once again asked for an overhaul of government measures designed to favour the restaurant world, which, she repeats, has hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

The proposals focus on rent and staffing, as they have throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic. They are the two biggest costs for restaurants, and two of operators’ and employees’ greatest fears. Currently, restaurants are protected from eviction for unpaid rent until the end of the year; U.K. Hospitality is pushing for both monetary and non-monetary government intervention on that “increasingly unsustainable” rent bill that will be due for thousands of owners when those protections expire.

Up to now the government has not decisively intervened on rent, and hospitality industry bodies — the British Institute of Innkeeping and the British Beer & Pub Association alongside U.K. Hospitality — have constantly pushed for support. Nothing suggests that the government will now intervene in the commercial relationship between landlord and tenant, having taken a non-interventionist approach up to now.

The proposals also address chancellor Rishi Sunak’s changes to the job support scheme, which replaces the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS.) The proposals pivot around the government subsidising “viable jobs,” which translates to jobs in which employees can work at least a third of their hours, paid by their employer. The government and employer then top up the wage. While that would typically leave an employee at 77 percent of wages, the hospitality proposals would see the deficit topped up to full pay, capped at £2,500 per month as under the furlough scheme.

They also push for an extension to the VAT cut from 20 percent to 5 percent, which is in place until 31 March 2021. As with the bodies’ lobbying through the coronavirus crisis, its plea for sector-specific measures is likely to go unheard. Even as the 10p.m. coronavirus curfew comes into direct conflict with the new job support measures by making many restaurant and pub jobs less viable than they were, the government has not shown any willingness to “bail out” the restaurant world on exceptional grounds, and is unlikely to do so now.