Londoners have sat down to enjoy their last pub pints before Christmas – as industry experts warn more than 160,000 jobs in the hospitality industry have been put at risk by the move into Tier 3.
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be put under Tier Three curbs from tonight.
The announcement was made yesterday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock who also revealeda new strain of the virus has begun spreading across the UK.
But hospitality bosses slammed the ‘catastrophic’ decision to move London and parts of the home counties into the higher band of restrictions.
They warned forcing pubs, bars and restaurants to close will wipe off £2.7billion from the London economy in the last two weeks of the year as trading in the capital will cease at what is typically their busiest time.
They called for an urgent support package for the hospitality sector to help businesses survive into the New Year.
It came as Londoners started drinking early at pubs across the capital before the city is plunged into Tier 3 tonight.
Some businesses in the city opened their doors early this morning and were offering pints for as little as 99p as they attempt to get rid of their stock with only hours to go before the shutdown.
One Wetherspoons pub in south West London welcomed drinkers from 10.30am onwards and was busy all morning serving drinkers.
Londoners started drinking early at pubs across the capital today before the city is plunged into Tier 3 tonight. Pictured: Drinkers at a Wetherspoons pub in south west London around 10.30am today
Some businesses were offering cut price drinks as they attempt to get rid of their stock with only hours to go before the shutdown
People enjoyed a drink outside a pub in the West End of London last night after the announcement the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will face Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday
People last night enjoyed one of their final chances to go out for dinner in the capital before tougher restrictions come into force. Pictured: People outside a restaurant in the West End of London last night
News of higher restrictions in London and parts of the home counties comes as:
- Britain yesterday recorded a further 20,263 coronavirus cases, in a rise of more than a third on last Monday’s total;
- Monday’s death toll stood at 232 people – in a 22.8 per cent spike on the 189 deaths seen on the same day last week;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged Britons to consider pre-isolating now before meeting vulnerable elderly relatives at Christmas to lessen the risk;
- The number of coronavirus cases in England dropped by a quarter during the second national lockdown, the Government-backed REACT-1 study has revealed.
Campaign for Pubs spokesperson, Greg Mulholland, slammed the government for announcing the decision less than two weeks before Christmas.
He said the government’s announcement is a ‘shocking way to treat publicans and their families’ and warned it would force many businesses to the brink.
The campaign manager and former MP said: ‘It’s devastating news for pubs and publicans in London and the home counties.
‘To move into Tier 3 just a few weeks after opening again to get some restricted trade, and then this just a few weeks before Christmas.
The whole of London will be plunged into Tier 3 lockdown tonight, leading drinkers in the capital to go out and get an early pint before the hospitality sector is forced to close under the new restrictions. Pictured: Wetherspoons pub in south west London
Unused stock will have to be poured away if it is not used, leading businesses to offer cut price pints. Pictured: Wetherspoons pub in south west London
Drinkere were seen at this Wetherspoons pub in south west London from around 10.30am
The pub is offering drinkers pints of ale for as little as 99p in a bid to sell unused stock
Industry insiders called the minimal notice before the shutdown ‘catastropic’ and a ‘shocking way to treat publicans’
They stressed that the last minute notice would have a ‘devastating’ effect on businesses. Pictured: Wetherspoons pub in south west London
‘We’re very worried about the impact this will not only have on livelihoods but also mental health.
‘This is a shocking way to be treating publicans and their families particularly in the run up to Christmas.
‘The goverment keeps changing its mind and changing the rules and it’s having a devastating effect which will threaten the future of many of our beloved pubs in these higher tier areas up and down the country.’
The former MP for Leeds North West also highlighted how the short notice will leave many business owner high and dry with unusued stock – yet another addition to their financial woes.
Former MP and campaign manager for the Campaign for Pubs said the government’s announcement is a ‘shocking way to treat publicans and their families’ and warned it would force many businesses to the brink
‘Pubs will have stock on the basis that they were allowed to be open at this crucial trading time of the year, and now forced to close in a matter of days and dispose of that with no compensation whatsoever from the government,’ he said. ‘We need an urgent package of support.’
A spokesperson for Wetherspoons, who is selling off their surplus stock for as little as 99p in some of their pubs today, said it was ‘disappointing’ but necessary.
Calling the hospitality sector a ‘scapegoat’ during the coronavirus crisis, JDW spokesman Eddie Gershon told Mail Online: ‘With those pubs moving into Tier 3 in London, Hertforshire and Essex if everything is not sold by the end of play today will have to be thrown away.
‘You can’t keep it, so might as well try and offload it. It is good beer, and some of those beers would usually be round £6 a pint in London.
‘Our prices at £2.20 a pint are very good value, so we hope people enjoy it at low prices and from our point of view we need to get rid of it.
‘The hospitality sector seems to be the scapegoat, but when things happen we just have to deal with it. ‘
Industry insiders warned the closure of pubs would wipe billions of pounds off the UK economy and put thousands of jobs at risk.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association there are 3,680 pubs and 56,000 sector jobs in the capital alone.
Kate Nicholls, the head of UK Hospitality warned the closure would ‘change the face of the capital for years to come’.
She said: ‘The effect this shutdown will have on businesses is absolutely catastrophic.
Industry insiders warned only 1 in 5 of London’s hospitality venues had been able to reopen effectively since December 2 and the move into Tier 3 means many more may never reopen
People cannot socialise indoors under the new restrictions, and restaurants like this one in London’s Soho, pictured last night, will have to close
‘The impact of this is both immediate and dire for those businesses forced to close and the effect will be also long term on wider businesses.
Head of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls called for an urgent package of support for the businesses forced to close as a result of the Tier 3 shutdown
‘For those businesses directly affected it will wipe off £2.7bn from the London economy in the last two weeks of December.
‘It’s such a disproportionate effect because it’s the two busiest trading weeks in the year lost in the largest most valuable hospitality economy in the world.
‘It’s also put 160,000 jobs directly at risk just before Christmas.’
Ms Nicholls said only 1 in 5 of London’s hospitality venues had been able to reopen effectively since December 2 and the move into Tier 3 means many more may never reopen.
Industry experts also criticised the number of shoppers seen crowded into the streets in the run up to Christmas.
Mr Mulholland said the hospitality industry was bearing the brunt of the restrictions, despite being heavily regulated – unlike High Streets and shopping centres.
He said: ‘There’s huge anger amongst publicans and their families at the fact the government is allowing – and indeed encouraging – huge crowds of people to congregate to go shopping in a totally unregulated environment while scapegoating pubs and hospitality, forcing them to close and giving them derisory support in response.’
A rise in infections means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be put under Tier Three curbs from tonight
He added: ‘We must have adequate support, the government cannot continue to treat pubs the way that they have without properly supporting them.
‘The evidence based decision they’re taking is extremely questionable, indeed threadbare.
‘But nonetheless, now that they have taken this devastating decision, they need to come up with a proper package of support for all Tier 3 areas.
What are the Tier 3 rules?
- Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys must close;
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close except for takeaway;
- Shops and hairdressers and salons will be allowed to remain open;
- Groups of six will be allowed to meet outdoors only;
- Crowds at live events will be banned;
- People should avoid travelling out of, or into, Tier 3 areas unless it is unavoidable;
- People from separate households cannot meet indoors and the rule of six applies outside.
‘It leaves people at the end of a very difficult year with great worries about the future of their business and their ongoing livelihoods.’
Ms Nicholls joined calls for a comprehensive support package to support the businesses facing difficulty in the face of closure.
She called for the government to extend the business rates holiday into 2022, and extend the lower rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality services for the whole of next year.
‘It’s going to be a domino effect unless we can get additional support to these businesses,’ she said.
‘That support will allow these businesses to make decisions about investment for next year in confidence, will avoid unnecessary job losses over the Christmas period and will allow support to be maintained throughout the recovery.’
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, called it ‘another nail in the coffin’ for pubs.
She said: ‘It could completely destroy many pubs in London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex [and] it is cruel on hardworking publicans doing all they can to support their communities and invest in implementing all the required safety measures.
‘It is not fair that pubs in London and other parts of England receive four times less financial support than pubs in Wales . Particularly as pubs in London are the most expensive to run.
‘Support also needs to be made available to brewers and the wider supply chain businesses also seeing a major trade channel closed overnight.’