More calls for Government to extend business rates’ holiday

Hospitality main trade bodies are calling for the Government to extend the business rates holiday for a further three months to give businesses breathing space as they re-open after the latest lockdown.

Whilst the public have been seen out celebrating the relaxation of lockdown rules over recent days, pubs and other hospitality venues have been struggling to cope with loss of income and social distancing costs, and still not been allowed to serve customers indoors until May 17.

In a recent survey of members from 3 key UK trade bodies – UKH, BBPA and BII – it showed that only 40% of pubs have been able to open outside spaces for customers, with turnover only expected to reach 29% of the same period in 2019. This is despite the hundreds of millions of pounds invested in outdoor areas and safety measures – averaging more than £8,000 per site.

UKH alone represents more than 700 companies in a sector that employs over 3.2 million people and represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP.

Even when Step 3 – post May 17 – allows indoor drinking and dining for 6 people or 2 households, they estimated that turnover will only climb to 56% when compared to pre-pandemic figures.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed believe that their business will be unviable before the end of the year based on current trading estimates.

The trade bodies are jointly calling for business rates to be cancelled completely in England for hospitality until October 2021. Scotland and Wales hospitality have already been given a full business rates’ holiday for the 2021/22 financial year.

A joint spokesperson told UK Hospitality and Catering News: “Our sector will have a long and rocky road to recovery, especially while any restrictions remain in place in our venues. After a year of closures and strangling restrictions, they are entering the summer, crippled with debt, having to employ more staff to manage the huge number of complexities surrounding Test & Trace data collection, enhanced cleaning regimes, table service and many more requirements placed on their businesses.

“It’s important to note that even when restrictions are fully lifted in June, our members will still only be achieving 80% of the turnover seen in 2019.

“Whilst Government support over the pandemic has been welcomed, the vast majority of our members have not yet been paid their Restart Grants, funding for which was delivered to Local Authorities over 2 weeks ago. Their businesses are teetering on the edge of survival and they will now be facing their business rates becoming due on 1st July, with potentially only 1 full week of restriction free trading under their belts.

“For many, this will be the last straw, jeopardising the jobs that have been protected by the furlough scheme until this point. We need to see a full cancellation of business rates until at least October 2021 to allow them the breathing space to recover their businesses.”

British Beer and Pub Association – News – British Beer and Pub Association