The Government has finally announced additional measures to support businesses being placed into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.
Among the areas are London, Birmingham, Leeds, and other parts of the North and Midlands. Greater Manchester, meanwhile, has joined Merseyside in Tier 3, which comes with cash grants of up to £3,000, and an improved (but still limited) Job Retention Scheme.
On Thursday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a new funding package to Tier 2 hospitality businesses, which previously encountered similar rules to Tier 3 ones, but without the extra money.
Sunak announced Tier 2 publicans and restaurateurs would be able to apply for cash grants of up to £2,100. Wage subsidies would be set at 55 per cent, meanwhile. They are at 66 per cent in Tier 3.
The news proved welcome for many in the industry, including Kate Nicholls from UKHospitality: “The changes to the Job Support Scheme will help to safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs and the grant support will provide a crucial lifeline for businesses struggling with low footfall and ongoing costs. It is excellent that the grant has been backdated to when the restrictions began to bite.
“This gives businesses a much-enhanced chance of being able to overcome the challenges and survive into 2021, so they can begin to recover next year and play a vital role in helping boost the economy. It is encouraging to see the Government listening to and understanding the plight of hospitality, which is dire. We are pleased to see that the measures extend to hotels and B&Bs, too.
“It is important now that grants are processed as quickly as possible as businesses are on the brink after weeks of curfew and severe restrictions.
“There is still a long way to go and we will be in close contact with the Government to make sure that our members, and the whole of hospitality, gets the support it needs and deserves. This is a significant step forward for us, though, and a hugely valuable lifeline for businesses to stay afloat and keep as many staff as possible in their jobs.”
But elsewhere, the reception was mixed, at best. The prevailing point is that city centre sites, suffering a vastly decreased footfall, all the while footing astronomical rents, are unlikely to see workable benefits to conservative cash grants.
Their staff will probably struggle on just 55 per cent of their wages too – the Government has suggested these are topped up by employers, but this might not always be possible (or done even if it is).
Here are some reactions from the sector:
Xavier Rousset, The Black Book, Soho
£2.1K a month doesn’t even touch the sides, especially in Soho. It’s just a further distraction from the slow, agonising death of the hospitality industry.
Brodie Meah, Top Cuvée, Highbury
Support is good but now we need a plan to rebuild consumer confidence so we can continue long term. Why are we being encouraged to stay open, but reduce staff hours? Either it’s safe to go to a restaurant or it’s not. Nice of Rishi to slip Tim Martin a few extra million quid though!
Charles Harris, founder of Libertine Burger, Warwickshire
It’s encouraging to see this is in place. We’re lucky to be in a low risk zone (Tier 1) now, but know that at the drop of a hat we could enter Tier 2 and our income would be immediately affected. This Gov support means a lot. It offers a little security to us and our 47 staff.
Jack Stein, chef director of Rick Stein Group
I welcome the news of the new grant, especially for those in cities like Manchester and London who are being particularly hard hit by tier 2 restrictions. Fortunately for us as a company, we only have one site in tier 2, but it’s reassuring to know that if the south west is added to the list, we will have some support to fall back on.
Mohammad Paknejad Cofounder, Nutshell, London
What the government offered earlier today still falls short of what would be necessary to save viable businesses in one of the hardest hit sectors and the jobs of their employees. No other sector has faced so much government imposed restrictions; most of which are not even justifiable, with so little support.