Hospitality

Nightclubs to Ignore Government Plea to Check Customers’ Vaccine Status

The Government’s insistence that it the “social responsibility” of large indoor events to check vaccine passports is “disingenuous and unclear“, says the Night Time Industries Association as two of the biggest nightclub chains have ruled out introducing such checks. Rekom U.K. and Tokyo Industries will reopen next week without discriminating against unvaccinated customers, but Government officials have warned that vaccine passports could become mandatory in the near future if hospitality venues don’t play ball.

Theatres and festivals are considering introducing vaccine passports, but cinemas are more resistant to the idea. The Times has more.

Peter Marks, Chief Executive of Rekom U.K., said yesterday that its 42 venues would reopen next week “at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet”.

Aaron Mellor, Founder of the nightclub chain Tokyo Industries, will reopen all of its 45 venues next week aside from those that cater for university students who are away during the summer.

“Many of our events have already been sold out and to ask us now retrospectively to force a vaccine passport is super-difficult to manage,” he said. “You’ve also got to consider that many of our target age group are people in the 18-25 bracket who haven’t had the option to have two vaccinations yet.”

Michael Kill, Chief Executive of the Nighttime Industries Association, said the industry was at risk of being “scapegoated” for a rise in cases resulting from other factors including the European football championships.

At a meeting with nightlife groups yesterday, Government officials stressed that coronavirus passports could become mandatory further down the line. The Times reported last week that plans were being drawn up to extend their use to other entertainment and hospitality settings in the autumn.

Cinemas have said they would resist such a move. Phil Clapp, Chief Executive of the U.K. Cinema Association, said: “We believe that the overwhelming majority of our members continue to oppose the notion that audience members should be required to show evidence of a double Covid vaccination or negative test before being allowed into their venues.

“U.K. cinemas have throughout the pandemic repeatedly shown their ability to offer a safe and enjoyable environment, as evidenced by the fact that not a single case of Covid has been traced back to a cinema site.”

Theatres are more amenable to the proposal, however. London theatre groups including Nimax, Delfont Mackintosh, LW Theatres and the Really Useful Group met yesterday to agree on an industry standard for Covid certification.

They will recommend that theatregoers bring proof of their vaccination status from next week when venues have opened at full capacity, despite the fact that they are not required to do so by the Government.

Festivals have also welcomed the measures. Paul Reed, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that it supported Covid passports as a “short-term measure to kickstart our £1.76 billion festival industry safely”.

He added: “With no legal requirement to do this, it is going to come down to what is acceptable at a localised level with relevant authorities and directors of public health.”

Greg Parmley, Chief Executive of LIVE, which represents the live music industry, said: “We were supportive of mandatory Covid certification for large events to allow us to reopen and now expect those large events, where organisers feel it is necessary, to move forward with certification to build customer confidence.”

Worth reading in full.

People Who Have Had One or Zero Doses of a Covid Vaccine to be Barred from Indoor Hospitality When it Reopens in Ireland

The Irish Government is delaying the reopening of indoor hospitality, along with other indoor activities, due to fears over the Indian Delta variant. To add insult to injury, only those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid, and who have a pass to prove it, will be allowed into indoor venues when restrictions are finally eased. People who have only received one dose of a vaccine, or who – for medical or other personal reasons – are unvaccinated, will be forced to stay outside. BBC News has more.

Indoor hospitality was due to reopen on July 5th.

When it reopens, indoor hospitality will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated against Covid, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin has said.

The recommendation had been made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). …

Mr Martin said while there will be an increase in the number of people who can attend outdoor events and the number who can attend weddings will be increased to 50 as planned, “the return to other indoor activities including hospitality will be delayed”.

“NPHET’s clear advice based on the modelling it has done is that given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the safest way to now proceed with the return of indoor hospitality is to limit access to those who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid infection,” he said. …

“The simple truth is that we are in a race between the variants and the vaccines and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the vaccine wins.” …

The Taoiseach gave no date as to when indoor dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants will resume.

Restaurateurs and publicans have expressed their anger and frustration at Mr Martin’s comments…

The plans have been criticised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which said it was “astounded” that indoor hospitality will face a further delay.

In a statement, the group said it believed the policy is discriminatory and unworkable. 

“Restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the unenviable, complex and difficult position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non-vaccinated customers to outdoor dining,” its Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said. 

“Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts.”

He added that many people working in the hospitality sector are in the unvaccinated age groups, and could potentially be asked to refuse service to their peers.

Worth reading in full.

Tens of Thousands Demand Their “Freedom to Dance” in London Protest

The protest isn’t over in London. Today, tens of thousands of people have turned out to a party to demonstrate against the Government’s attack on the live music industry through the imposition of numerous lockdowns and the continuation of social distancing measures. The MailOnline has the story.

Crowds blocked Regent Street during the FreedomToDance march organised by Save Our Scene, demonstrating against the ongoing Covid restrictions that are keeping nightclubs and music venues closed in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The lively protest saw open-sided trucks rigged with speakers providing a mobile club atmosphere for the punters as they poured out onto the streets without masks to protest against coronavirus restrictions on nightlife.

Young protestors were seen puffing on balloons as they walked along in the festival-feel crowd on one of London’s busiest shopping streets.   

Others were seen brandishing signs reading “let the music play”, “music is medicine” and “everybody’s free to feel good, but not dance”.

The results from 10 Government-led trial events were recently released and identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants. So when will the Government do as these protesters ask and “let the music play”?

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

40% of Brits Say Their Favourite Pubs Are Still Closed Due to Ongoing Restrictions

The Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) warns that the continuation of restrictive measures – especially relating to social distancing – in the hospitality industry means pubs are having their post-lockdown recoveries trashed before they’ve even begun.

40% of Brits say their favorite pubs are still closed because of these restrictions, according to a new survey. Despite this, the Government is considering introducing more measures, with vaccine passports in pubs seemingly back on the table. The MailOnline has the story.

In a survey of 1,000 adults, 40% said their favourite pubs are still behind locked doors.

It comes after the BBPA said the restrictions must be removed if the industry is to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.  

“The current restrictions on pubs are flatlining their recovery before it has even had a chance to begin,” Chief Executive Emma McClarkin said.

“Pubs and licensees are struggling to recover with the current restrictions they face and debts are accumulating. Every week the current restrictions stay and uncertainty continues, the likelihood of pubs being lost forever increases.

“The countdown to freedom is on in England for pubs on July 19th, but the Wales and Scotland Governments must give more certainty to publicans.”

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Covid passports could be used to keep pubs and restaurants open this winter under plans being drawn up by ministers. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned although it is “looking good” for the lifting of restrictions on July 19th, Britain could still face a “rough winter” if cases surge.

Plans for the widespread use of so-called Covid passports were put on the back-burner earlier this year following a backlash from MPs and parts of the hospitality sector. 

But a review into “Covid certification” led by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is now examining whether they could be used to enable venues like pubs, restaurants and theatres to remain open if cases rocket later this year. 

Worth reading in full.

Nightclubs and Bars May Sue the Government to Prevent Delay to Covid Restrictions

Following the news that the June 21st reopening is likely to be delayed by at least four weeks, reports have emerged that nightclubs and bars are considering suing the Government to prevent the extension of lockdown. The Guardian has the story.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is understood to be weighing up legal action on behalf of venues such as nightclubs that have spent money to be ready to welcome guests after a year of enforced closure.

According to the trade body, 54% of businesses have ordered stock, 73% have called in staff and 60% have sold tickets.

Hospitality bosses said they were increasingly resigned to the prospect that rules such as social distancing and compulsory mask-wearing will not be relaxed, potentially until July.

“It was almost in touching distance and now feels like it’s slipping away,” said Chris Jowsey, the head of the 1,000-strong pub chain Admiral Taverns.

“We need people in the pubs to trade profitably. People might say it’s only a fortnight or four weeks, but [publicans] are hanging on by their fingertips.”

Many pubs and restaurants opened when restrictions eased in April and May under the first two stages of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. But nightclubs and smaller venues, where social distancing is impossible, have been shut for either six months or in many cases since the onset of the pandemic.

“If this gets pushed down the line, they’ve used their last cash resource to get to the point where they can open the doors,” said NTIA’s Chief Executive, Michael Kill. “They’ve committed money to preparing, to stocking, staff training. There’s talk about two weeks [delay], four weeks and the uncertainty is killing them.”

He said the anxiety was exacerbated by a lack of any solution to a looming rent crunch. A Government-imposed moratorium that prevents commercial landlords from demanding late rent payments comes to an end on July 1st.

“We’ve got people who have compromised themselves financially who don’t know if they’ll get out of debt,” said Kill. “The anxiety levels associated with commercial debt, which still doesn’t have a solution with two weeks left, is exceptional.”

Richard Nattriss, a nightclub owner who runs Raw in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said: “Our building is owned by a pension fund, like a lot of places, and there’s been no concession on rents. We’ve paid full rent through the entire thing and the grants haven’t covered that, so we’re desperate to open to get the cashflow.”

Nattriss said he had already spent money on stocking up, amid shortage of supply of some drinks, but did not believe nightclubs would be able to open until July 5th at the earliest.

“Even though they say the restrictions are lifting, we know in our heart of hearts they’re not going to do that,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Pubs’ Turnover 20% Down on Pre-Lockdown Levels Due to Continuing Government Restrictions

The reopening of pubs indoors last month has been hampered by the continuation of Government restrictions on the hospitality sector, particularly social distancing, which has resulted in a 20% slump in trade compared with pre-lockdown levels. This fall has come in spite of the reopening of between 90-95% of pubs since May 17th, although the cost of a pint has increased in many pubs. The Guardian has the story.

Pub owners have warned that despite welcoming customers back indoors from May 17th, and a boom in table bookings for restaurants and bars, turnover in the first week of reopening was 20% lower than in the same week in 2019 because of Government restrictions and physical distancing measures.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which carried out the survey of publicans representing 7,000 pubs across the country, said the Government’s rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus had continued to make the businesses “unviable”.

Drinks sales initially soared to almost double the pre-pandemic when pubs first opened for business again in April outdoors, according to industry data, but the pub industry has blamed physical distancing measures for the punters’ muted response to the reopening of indoor spaces.

Under the Government’s current rules, pubs are limited to providing table service to limited group sizes of up to six people and cannot allow punters to drink at the bar or standing. They are also required to keep people at least one metre apart and ensure face masks are worn at all times, except when outdoors or seated inside.

The BBPA has warned that unless restrictions are removed in line with the Government’s June 21st timeline, the average pub would need to sell more than 24,672 extra pints over a year to make up for their loss in turnover.

The pub association’s survey revealed that across the week of May 17th turnover was at 80% of the same period in 2019 despite 95% of U.K. pubs, or about 45,000 venues, reopening to trade. The association estimates that if trade continues to stay at 80% of normal, the average pub would lose £94,000 in turnover over a year.

Emma McClarkin, the Chief Executive of the BBPA, warned that turnover may even fall further if the early enthusiasm to return to the local pub begins to wane because of the coronavirus restrictions.

It is a big blow to the industry, therefore, that the Government is considering keeping social distancing guidelines in place after the June 21st “Freedom Day”.

Worth reading in full.

A Quarter of Britain’s Pubs and Restaurants Have Yet to Reopen

Despite the recent easing of restrictions for both outdoor and indoor hospitality, new research shows that almost a quarter of Britain’s licensed premises have yet to reopen. The partial reopening of the sector has been largely hampered by the continuation of social distancing guidelines. Nearly 7.5% of Britain’s pre-lockdown total of pubs and restaurants have already closed for good. The Caterer has more.

23.7% of Britain’s… licensed premises have yet to reopen despite the return of inside service, new Market Recovery Monitor research from CGA and AlixPartners reveals.

The snapshot data found just under 25,000 venues are still shut, with similar trading numbers in England (76.6%) and Scotland (77.4%), but a notably slower return in Wales (69.6%).

The Market Recovery Monitor showed slightly more pubs have reopened than restaurants. Around nine in 10 high street pubs (92.9%), food pubs (91.8%) and community pubs (89.6%) are back trading, alongside 89.2% of casual dining and other restaurants.

However, social distancing and restrictions in place still make it unviable for swathes of venues to open, and 45.2% of Britain’s sports and social clubs remain closed, alongside 50.9% of large venues and 27% of bars. 

More than 8,500 premises… have already closed for good.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s Director for Hospitality Operators and Food, EMEA, said: “The return of large parts of hospitality for indoor service was a landmark moment for consumers and businesses alike, but it is alarming to see that so many venues have still not been able to welcome guests. Many will have decided that restrictions and space constraints make opening unviable, while some sectors like late-night bars and nightclubs are still completely off limits.

“It will be an anxious wait to see how many of the venues that are holding on until the final easing of restrictions will be able to make it through. Sustained support is clearly going to be needed to save thousands of vulnerable businesses and jobs.”

The continued presence of a fear of Covid (“Covid Anxiety Syndrome“, as it has been labelled) means many people have struggled with returning to normal life. This will no doubt have created further difficulties for publicans and restaurateur hoping to maximise sales after many months of forced closure. Recent polling from Ipsos MORI shows that 14% of British adults aren’t looking forward to having dinner in a restaurant with friends and 18% aren’t looking forward to going to the pub.

The Caterer report is worth reading in full.

Pub Landlords Urge Government to End Furlough Because It Is Destroying Work Ethic

Landlords and restaurant owners have called on the Government to end the furlough scheme to help offset a recruitment crisis, saying that those on furlough would rather stay at home than come out and work. There are 188,000 job vacancies in hospitality where more than 250,000 workers remain on furlough. The Sun on Sunday has the story.

[Some owners] are so short-staffed, some have been offering £1,000 joining-up bonuses to coax back uncertain workers. 

They blame the £63 billion Government pay scheme, as would-be recruits prefer to stay home and take state cash.

The Sun on Sunday can reveal U.K.-wide there are 700,000 job vacancies, including 188,000 in hospitality alone where more than 250,000 remain on furlough.

The scheme does not stop until the end of September, amid uncertainty over the economy. 

But experts fear some have now lost the will to work. Professor Len Shackleton, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Furlough has been a great success but has gone on for far too long.

“We should wind it up and get back to reality. We should not be holding back new businesses which need workers in a vain attempt to keep old businesses alive.”

Furlough began in March last year to stop firms laying off staff, or collapsing, during lockdown. 

Some  11.5 million workers have been furloughed, with 4.2 million still on the handout at the end of March this year. It has helped keep unemployment at around five%.

A Treasury spokesman said: “Furlough means two million fewer people will have lost their jobs.  

“We went long with furlough to avoid a cliff edge and ensure as many jobs as possible are protected.”

But it is down to employers to stop the payouts, by ceasing to apply for the state to pay 80% of a worker’s wages. 

Meanwhile, trade body U.K. Hospitality says 15% of its workers, or around 270,000, are reluctant to come off furlough, over fears of another lockdown.

U.K. Hospitality’s Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Furlough is still essential, helping to make sure jobs are protected over the summer.

“But it could be tightened up to ensure it is not masking problems in our economy and protecting jobs that are no longer there.

“Lots of people are trying to recruit and in some parts of the country there are vacancies that they cannot fill.” 

Worth reading in full.

Live Music Venues Beset by Regulations – and Not Just Ones Imposed by the Government

Audiences at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club won’t be dancing cheek to cheek anytime soon, with the famous London venue having introduced a raft of “Covid protocols” (some already required by the Government, others not), including mask-wearing, facial thermometers and protective screens. Here’s a list of new rules from their website.

  • Face coverings must be worn when entering and leaving the venue or anytime you are not seated. Staff will wear face coverings.
  • Upon entering the club there will be an optional sanitiser station and a facial thermometer which you will be asked to use;
  • All guests must scan the Track and Trace QR Poster on arrival at the club.
  • We have removed entrance furniture to ease congestion in and out of the venue;
  • We have increased our cleaning system using medical grade sanitiser on all surfaces;
  • We politely ask customers not to bring excessive baggage that needs to be checked into the cloakroom to ease congestion upon entering and leaving the club;
  • Increased hand washing of staff and staff health declarations;
  • We have gone cashless. Your PDQ machine will be cleaned between each use;
  • We have reduced capacity to 50% to allow for spacing between guests;
  • We have adapted our air conditioning system to ensure there is 100% fresh air being circulated in the club;
  • We have installed some protective screens in certain areas.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Club points out that these are “just a few” of the measures which it has introduced to ensure the safety of its staff, musicians and audience members. Incredibly, it says that this can all be done while “maintaining the atmosphere of the club”. Yeah, right!

If all (or most) live entertainment venues return to action in this manner, their post-lockdown recoveries could well be short-lived.

Boris Says He Wants to Scrap the “One-Metre Plus” Rule in Pubs on June 21st

Boris Johnson has told Conservative MPs that he would like to scrap the “one-metre plus” rule in hospitality settings when the last step of the “roadmap” out of lockdown is reached on June 21st. Doing so would help businesses damaged by lockdown to get back on their feet, the Prime Minister said. The MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister said eliminating the measure was the “single biggest difference” the Government could bring about in order to get Britain’s pubs back into action, and he was eager for the rule to be scrapped by June 21st…

As long as the rule is in force, pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other hospitality businesses remain financially unviable, having to legally keep customers separated while using their premises, industry leaders have warned. 

Many have had to keep their doors closed throughout the coronavirus crisis. 

Britain’s daily Covid deaths have fallen by more than a third in a week as seven more victims and 2,874 positive tests were recorded. Yesterday’s infections were up slightly on the 2,657 last Thursday, a rise of about eight per cent, but the national case rate has remained stable since April.

More than 37 million people have now received one vaccine injection – the equivalent of more than 70% of all adults – and 21.2 million are fully inoculated.  

But the rise of the Indian Covid variant had sparked concerns that plans to end social distancing measures were in jeopardy, but on Wednesday Mr Johnson told the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs he was confident about abolishing the one-metre plus rule next month.  

He said: “We are hopeful we can do that at the end of the road map.” But Mr Johnson added that it depends on figures “continuing in the right direction”…

One MP who was at the 1922 meeting said: “[Boris] seemed very upbeat about removing the one-metre-plus rule next month.”

Worth reading in full.