Pubs and restaurant owners said they needed to see light at the end of the tunnel after a devastating year for the hospitality industry.
Former Conservative leader Lord Hague heaped further pressure on the Prime Minister by saying there would be little justification for keeping most Covid limits once the over-50s have been vaccinated in April.
Tory MPs lined up with business leaders last night to urge Boris Johnson to ‘be bold’ and accelerate the lifting of all lockdown restrictions
This came as 40 Tory MPs joined with the hospitality industry to urge Mr Johnson to open pubs and restaurants in time for Easter.
Meanwhile Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, called on the Prime Minister to open up the tourism industry.
‘There is enormous demand for seeing friends and family, and taking a holiday,’ he said.
‘Passengers and airlines want to see a bold plan detailing how and when they will be able to take to the skies, safely, again.’
Lord Hague told Sky News: ‘I’m hoping to hear that before too long the great majority of restrictions can be lifted.
This came as 40 Tory MPs joined with the hospitality industry to urge Mr Johnson to open pubs and restaurants in time for Easter
‘If we are going to reach the point where everybody over 50 has had the opportunity to be vaccinated and the number of cases is down to a very low level, the sort of level we last saw in the middle of summer last year.
‘If both of those things have happened by some time in April, then there wouldn’t be much justification for keeping most of the restrictions.
‘Coming in through 2021, we ought to be in a position with mass testing, a test and trace system and the huge success of the vaccination programme… then we do have the tools to prevent future lockdowns.’
Last night the UK’s leading hospitality trade associations joined forces with the Covid Recovery Group of 40 Tory MPs to call for the sector to open by Easter.
Mark Harper, CRG chairman, said: ‘Britain’s hospitality industry has had one of the toughest years on record and it’s vital we do everything we can to get them open in a Covid-secure way that allows them to protect jobs and operate viably.
‘As we get better and better news about the pace of the vaccination rollout, the public have got to see this success and their sacrifice translating into a return to normal life.’
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the CRG, said pubs and the rest of the hospitality industry had lost hundreds of thousands of jobs ‘and 40 per cent of its businesses are due to fail this year if we don’t start safely lifting restrictions’.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘Pubs demonstrated last year that the trade was able to reopen safely.
‘The millions of pounds of investment in Covid-secure measures mean that we’re in a great position to do so again.’
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said ‘just one in five hospitality businesses’ have enough funds to survive the next month.
‘That is why we urge the Prime Minister to work with us on delivering a safe, swift and sustainable exit from lockdown for hospitality,’ she added. ‘The best way to support these businesses is to allow them to reopen.’
John Foster, of the Confederation of British Industry, said that companies are looking to Mr Johnson to ‘provide a pragmatic route out of lockdown and inject some real momentum back into the economy’.
RANALD MACDONALD: Restaurants are safe… we must let them reopen
Britain has one of the greatest restaurant scenes in the world. It makes this country a uniquely exciting place to live and do business.
You might never have thought about it this way, but our restaurants are a major national asset. And they are on their knees. As are our pubs.
Last year, the hospitality sector lost £72billion in revenue and more than one million jobs, according to the industry body.
Almost 10,000 licensed premises closed permanently as the coronavirus crisis struck at home.
There is no logical reason to delay a full restart for restaurants beyond Easter at the latest, which this year falls on April 4. My frustration would border on despair if this deadline was not met under the Government’s ‘cautious’ road map out of lockdown [File photo]
The first two months of this year, under total lockdown, have been worse than ever, and thousands more pub landlords and restaurant bosses are locked in a desperate fight for survival.
As the proprietor of a London-based group, I have been hoping for weeks that restaurants would be among the first places to open as restrictions were lifted.
It is right for schools to reopen first but once that step has been taken the Government should be looking to revitalise the economy as a whole as soon as possible.
Thanks to millions of pounds of investment in anti-Covid measures and training in social distancing, restaurants and pubs are among the safest places you could visit.
That is why I would urge the Government to be bold. There is no logical reason to delay a full restart for restaurants beyond Easter at the latest, which this year falls on April 4.
My frustration would border on despair if this deadline was not met under the Government’s ‘cautious’ road map out of lockdown.
Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, we can expect all over-50s to be inoculated against Covid by the middle of April.
As tourism returns, London will need thriving hospitality more than ever. We must get back on our feet right now. If the Government waits beyond Easter to reopen restaurants, for many it will be too late [File photo]
Of course we want to ensure this horrific illness does not spread. The hospitality sector is especially well placed to do that, because we understand, perhaps better than anyone, the importance of hygiene.
I am fiercely proud that there has been not one reported case of anybody contracting Covid at any of the four Boisdale restaurants – neither customers nor staff.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. People sit down to eat, and don’t mingle. Cleanliness is at a premium. Staff are trained in the importance of social distancing.
Once we are allowed to leave our homes, I cannot imagine anywhere I’d rather be, or where I’d feel safer, than in a clean, well run restaurant. To keep them closed is worse than illogical – it’s perverse.
My 150 staff are like family to me. Some have been with Boisdale for 15, 20, even 30 years. It distresses me to know they are suffering.
The greatest injustice of all is that the service charge, accounting for 20 to 40 per cent of staff remuneration, does not count as salary, meaning many on furlough receive as little as 50 per cent of their income.
And furlough pay is capped at £2,500 per month, which makes life very difficult for senior staff with families and higher outgoings.
I’m doing everything I can to support them, but I have no income either. When I recently tried to extend a mortgage myself, I discovered that despite always making my payments on time, I’m now seen as a risk. It seems everyone knows the trouble the hospitality sector is in, apart from the Government.
My restaurants are famous for their live music. I’m in touch with many of our brilliant, talented musicians – we book about 3,000 a year – and I know many are surviving on universal credit. They too have been abandoned by the Government.
As tourism returns, London will need thriving hospitality more than ever. We must get back on our feet right now. If the Government waits beyond Easter to reopen restaurants, for many it will be too late.