Will Rishi now dish out support for hospitality?

Will Rishi now dish out support for hospitality? Bosses call for urgent support after Prof Whitty warns Britons to ‘prioritise’ when they go out

  • Pubs and restaurants say advice to ‘prioritise’ social contact will be ‘disastrous’ 
  • Many have already suffered mass cancellations during the key festive period
  • Celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Raymond Blanc call for action over Omicron

The hospitality industry demanded urgent help from the Treasury after Chris Whitty’s comments yesterday. 

Pubs and restaurants said the chief medical officer’s advice to ‘prioritise’ some social contact over other events would be disastrous. 

Along with theatres, they have already suffered mass cancellations during the key festive period. 

Previous lockdowns saw billions provided to support businesses, from furlough for workers to half price meals for customers. 

Celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Raymond Blanc are among those calling for more action to combat the effects of Omicron. 

Celebrity chef Raymond Blanc has described the current situation as ‘carnage’ as he called for more action to help businesses through Omicron

Kerridge said he had suffered 654 cancellations in six days, while Blanc described the current situation as ‘carnage’. 

Rishi Sunak, who is currently in the US, will hold talks with hospitality chiefs today – but the Treasury indicated last night that no new help would be forthcoming unless further restrictions were brought in by law. 

Baroness McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said businesses were being hit by a ‘two-punch combination’ of staff shortages and waning confidence from customers, meaning firms face seeing ‘vital festive income melt away’. 

She added that Professor Whitty’s comments last night ‘will almost certainly have an enormous impact for businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector… [but] we heard no news of any new financial support measures.

‘Until now the Treasury has stepped up at every stage of this crisis to help offset restrictions that limited businesses’ ability to trade fully, which is what makes its complete absence at this crucial moment all the more baffling.’ 

Following advice to work from home amid rising Covid cases, Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality said Plan B was having a ‘devastating’ impact. 

‘We desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the Government to stand behind our industry,’ she said. 

‘That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.’ 

In a trading update yesterday, Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin warned Covid curbs could see his pub chain record a loss in the first six months of the year. He complained the nation was heading towards ‘a lockdown by stealth’. 

Chef Michel Roux Jr tweeted that his daughter had been hit with ‘over 300 cancellations in the last two days’, with Blanc saying: ‘It’s carnage… we all hope that the Government will help the industry.’ 

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves tweeted last night: ‘Where is the Chancellor? Government just told the public to “deprioritise social contact”… it’s unacceptable that he wasn’t there to outline business support.’ 

A source said Mr Sunak was abroad on a long-planned work trip, but will fly back tomorrow. 

He will hold today’s talks with industry chiefs from San Francisco, where he is meeting senior figures from the tech and investment sectors. 

A spokesman for the Treasury said: ‘Our £400billion Covid support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus.’

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