The hospitality and entertainment sector warns Boris Johnson’s latest Covid-19 clampdown will leave many firms struggling to survive and risks putting a million people out of work.
Pub landlords, cafe owners, caterers, theatres and sports clubs told of their despair at restrictions that leave them facing six more months of lost trade.
And there were calls to continue the vital furlough lifeline beyond the end of October.
Entrepreneur and former Pizza Express boss Luke Johnson said: “I would estimate of the three million [on the furlough scheme] at least a million will be made redundant.”
And trade bodies revealed almost a quarter of their members think their firms will fail by the end of the year without further support.
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A 10pm curfew comes into force for hospitality businesses today. Other restrictions include venues only operating table service, and the number allowed at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies has been halved to 15.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will on Thursday unveil measures intended to prevent a jobs bloodbath.
But a survey by trade bodies the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping found that one in eight hospitality staff have already been made redundant.
And more jobs are expected to go when the furlough scheme ends.
On average, businesses believe their workforce will be 25% lower next February, meaning a loss of 675,000 jobs since February this year.
BBPA chief Emma McClarkin said: “This research shows pub businesses were already teetering on the edge.”
UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls added: “The additional restrictions announced this week place even further burdens on a sector that is operating with razor-thin margins and needs all the help it can get.”
Businesses told of their fears and frustration last night. Paul Pringle, owner of the Intermezzo, Alvinos and Tokyo bars in Newcastle, said: “The new lockdown is a nightmare and the announcement that these restrictions could remain for six months signals another major blow for an industry on its knees.
“Most business in my bars is after 10pm.”
Mr Pringle has already temporarily closed one of his venues with trade in the other two down 40%. He added: “Furlough has masked the true picture of the employment situation, and job losses are going to be inevitable.”
Sara Fairchild, 36, owns Cafe No.3 in Bath, Somerset. She said: “The first lockdown was bad enough. The two-metre [rule] was impossible for us because we are only small. Now, the next six months are going to hit people hard.”
Alan Morgan, 73, managing director of the Abbey Ales brewery, which runs four pubs in Bath, said: “We are coping but like other licensees need help with rents from pub companies.
“Without that we will struggle to survive.”
Sue Wright, of Cheshire-based Sue Le Bonne Catering, would normally do 100 weddings a year but has done none since March.
She said: “The Government doesn’t understand the industry. Having 15 guests is just impossible.” Plans to trial socially distanced crowds at sporting events next month have been put on hold just as clubs were preparing for the return of some vital income.
Bath Rugby chief executive Tarquin McDonald warned there is a risk of a Premiership club going under. He said: “The longer this goes on without crowds it is unsustainable, it is bleak.”
Philippa Childs, head of Bectu union, said: “Theatres and live events are on the brink. A further six months potentially without audiences could be the final nail in the coffin for many, unless the Government takes further action.”
Boris Johnson ’s latest update included yet another U-turn, with staff who can “work effectively” from home urged to do so over winter.
It added to mounting annoyance at the Prime Minister’s mixed messages.
Referring to Mr Johnson’s TV address on Tuesday, Julian Metclafe, founder of Pret a Manger and boss of Itsu, said: “To turn to a nation and say stay at home and then spout off some Churchillian nonsense about we’ll make it through, is terribly unhelpful to this country.”
Mr Metcalfe, who headed a taskforce for Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London, added: “The repercussions on this six months are going to be devastating. We need leadership, we don’t need exaggerated nonsense.”
And Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “It is essential that public health measures go hand in hand with economic support, or we will see disaster for businesses and workers.”
You can find a breakdown of all the new rules you need to know here.