UKHospitality has called on the government to incentivise landlords to lower rents and write-off some arrears to tackle the industry’s ever-growing mountain of debt.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls told the government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee (BEIS) that landlords must “share the burden” to better support the sector.
Currently, hospitality businesses are protected from eviction thanks to an extension of the government’s moratorium. But this is due to cease at the end of 2020.
Without additional support going into 2021, many operators stand to lose their premises as many have been unable to pay rents in lockdown.
Nicholls said: “Unless we find a way of resetting commercial rents we are going to bake in a problem throughout the whole of the recovery period and hamstring people who are going to want to rebuild their businesses post-pandemic.
“Clearly there is a vested interest in all four of those parties in resolving this, so we don’t have devastation on our high streets. From a hospitality point of view, that is a very real prospect in January. You only have to look at the company voluntary arrangements that have gone through recently in hospitality.
“It is clear the government is going to have to act further to extend the moratoriums. We would urge them to take them forward six months to allow those negotiations to happen.
“You need to make sure you’ve got a principle of shared pain. If the government can step in and incentivise a forgiveness of rent debt or to take on some of the burden, that would be incredibly helpful.”