YVONNE FOVARGUE MP: Hospitality sector needs far more aid

Many sectors within the economy have suffered because of the pandemic. But one has been hit hard, namely the night time economy.

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Under the national lockdown in England introduced in early January 2021, various businesses and venues in the night-time economy have been required to remain closed.

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Yvonne Fovargue MP

This includes entertainment venues such as nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques, casinos, theatres and concert halls.

Hospitality venues, including restaurants, pubs and bars have also been required to remain closed for consumption on the premises, but are able to offer food and non-alcoholic drinks on a takeaway basis or all food and drink (including alcohol) through delivery services

Hospitality venues and businesses in the night-time sector were some of the first to feel the impact of the pandemic and will likely be the last out of the crisis.

We not only have a moral duty to ensure that as many as possible are able to reopen viably, but also an economic imperative to do so.

With the right support, night-time businesses can help us bounce back after the crisis.

For every previously viable business that we allow to go to the wall, on the other hand, we will pay the price in lost taxes, increased unemployment and lower growth.

The Government states that many businesses that operate within the night-time economy have received support through its general support schemes, including furlough and business grants.

It also points to support provided through the Culture Recovery Fund.

I am concerned, however, that the sector has been abandoned, with too many gaps in support.

While I welcome both the Culture Recovery Fund and its extension in the Budget, for example, I believe it came too late for some people and organisations.

In addition, I worry that it has done more to save buildings and institutions than to save jobs and could have been better designed to protect livelihoods.

Many of the self-employed and freelancers working in the night-time economy will not have seen any support, falling through gaps in the furlough and Self-Employment Income Support Schemes.

Furthermore, I believe the support announced in the Budget was the bare minimum of what was needed.

The initial package of economic support measures was not designed for the 12 to 18 months of lockdowns and lost trade – and in the case of venues such as nightclubs, over a year of enforced shutdown – that we have seen.

As a result, hospitality businesses have been left on the brink and facing mounting debts, overheads and deferrals.

To enable hospitality and the night-time economy to thrive, we need a real plan to support the sector, including action on debts, with loans paid back based on businesses’ income; more sector support, especially for wet-led pubs; and public health guidance which makes operating viable and is fair to all parts of the sector.

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