The pub trade has reacted angrily to the prospect of a “triple whammy” of new coronavirus restrictions when sites reopen in England, warning they risk further damage to businesses after a year of disruption.
Hospitality industry representatives have written to the prime minister to express their outrage at new guidance governing the start of outside-only trade – due from 12 April under Boris Johnson’s roadmap.
One major concern is that every customer aged 16 or over should now provide contact details to staff, either via the NHS COVID-19 app or in person, in a change from rules last year which covered just one member of a group.
They also voiced fears that ministers were set to recommend so-called vaccine passports, or proof of negative tests, to permit entry to a pub, cafe or restaurant beyond 21 June, when the government hopes all restrictions will be over.
A statement from the groups UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping said: “It now seems the hospitality industry could be burdened with vaccine passports, over-complicated test and trace rules and an inability not able to take payments indoors at reopening – a triple whammy for hard-pressed publicans who have been forcibly closed for months.”
They added: “Pubs will already be trading at a loss when they reopen with all the existing restrictions and COVID-secure measures in place.
“Adding further disproportionate and discriminatory measures threatens the very survival of thousands of businesses.”
The groups argued that more government financial support would be needed if such measures were added to the burden already placed on the industry.
The chairman of JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, warned earlier this week that the pub chain’s new investment plans were conditional on no more lockdowns and the rules being sensible.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has voiced his own worries about vaccine passports for domestic use but is yet to say whether the party would oppose them.
Hospitality, retail and travel are the sectors which have felt the worst pain throughout the pandemic but there are hopes hospitality can enjoy a recovery as travel abroad remains on shaky ground, given rising virus rates across much of Europe.
A government spokesperson said of the industry’s concerns: “We have continued to support the hospitality sector throughout the pandemic, including our new £5bn Restart Grant scheme, extending the furlough scheme and the VAT cut, and providing 750,000 businesses in hospitality and other sectors with business rates relief.
“Public health rules are kept under constant review and we are providing as much flexibility for pubs and other hospitality businesses as possible.
“The roadmap set out that hospitality would open from step two, and removed any requirements for curfews or a substantial meal for customers.
“No final decisions have been taken on whether COVID-status certification (vaccine passports) could play a role in reopening our economy.”