Monday 14 June 2021 11:29 am

Hospitality chiefs call for more clarity as 'freedom day' set for delay

The owner of the Franco Manca Pizza chain David Page has warned the “lack of concrete delay” to the government’s lockdown easing roadmap is the biggest problem facing the hospitality sector.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a four week delay to so-called “freedom day” later today, just a week before the 21 June date that was originally planned.

“It would help if they gave people a bit more warning, rather than a week, and rather than leaking various proposals,” Page told the BBC’s Today programme.

The Fulham Shore chairman added that preparing premises and deciding whether to bring staff back from furlough was extremely difficult when his company had no certainty over when social distancing restrictions will be fully eased.

“To get your restaurant or pub ready, you need two or three weeks, you can’t just leave it to the final week,” Page said.

Footfall across the West End is about 50 per cent when compared to normal, pre-coronavirus levels in 2019, according to New West End Company, which represents 600 hospitality and retail landlords in the area, including those of Heddon Street Kitchen, The Connaught and Sketch.

Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company, said: “A month’s delay with just a week’s notice will have heaped extra costs on already vulnerable businesses.”

“Until restrictions are fully lifted, workers return in force to the capital’s offices and international travellers are welcomed back to British shores, any meaningful commercial recovery will have to wait,” he added.

200,000 jobs in danger

The hospitality industry has warned that a one month delay to restrictions lifting could mean 200,000 jobs are lost.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UK Hospitality, said: “Even now, with partial reopening, sector sales remain down 42% and 300,000 jobs remain protected by furlough. A one-month delay to restrictions lifting would cost the sector around £3 billion in sales.”

Uncertainty over furlough extension

Pressed on whether Boris Johnson will announce an extension to Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme later today to compensate for the roadmap delay, health minister Edward Argar remained tight-lipped.

“I know that when he addresses his decision, sets out what he intends to do around the easing on the 21st, he will address those points as well,” Argar told Sky News.

“I think he is very mindful of the need for businesses and others to get the support they need if they continue to be locked down or unable to open,” he added. “I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say, but I know he is very sensitive to those factors.”