Hospitality sector ‘at risk of collapse’, say city leaders

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, and the leaders of Manchester and Leeds, call for an urgent review of COVID-19 restrictions as bars and restaurants face an existential crisis. Tony McDonough reports

Joe Anderson
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson fears for the future of the city’s hospitality sector


Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is joining his counterparts in Manchester and Leeds in calling for an urgent review of COVID-19 restrictions claiming the hospitality sector is “at risk of collapse”.

Mr Anderson, Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, have written to the Government calling for a review of current licensing restrictions and household mixing advice.

In the letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, they say that hotel occupancy is down to around 30% and footfall has dropped by up to 70%. Leisure and hospitality in Liverpool accounts for 20 per cent of the city’s GVA and provides half of the £270m in business rates.

READ MORE: Liverpool at ‘critical point’ in battle against COVID-19

They write: “It is apparent though that the new restrictions are threatening an economic impact on the hospitality sector which will be huge, disproportionate and not what we believe the Government intended when designing the measures.

“Each of our cities have a thriving hospitality sector populated by good, responsible businesses, generating thousands of jobs with many providing quality training, apprenticeships and career paths into the industry. They are a vital part of our economies going forward.

Food, restaurant, cafe, burger, meal, dining, hospitality, lunch
Liverpool’s hospitality businesses are fighting for survival


“The stark reality is that these businesses are facing the prospect of a complete decimation in trade, not just in the short term but as we look ahead to the sector’s traditional lifeblood of the Christmas period and almost certainly continuing into spring/summer of next year which we know with certainty will result in mass market failure, huge levels of redundancies and depleted and boarded up high streets.”

They are calling on the Government to:

  • Make the ‘no household mixing’ advice law and compensate business appropriately with a package of support – or allow for limited mixing via the ‘rule of six’ in controlled environments.
  • Where appropriate, review the 10pm curfew to help restaurants which thrive on the 8-9pm second sitting booking slot which can account for upwards of 40% of their trade.
  • Engage with local authorities and businesses and discuss considerations in advance and work with councils to get the messaging right, highlighting and celebrating good practice and increase public confidence to visit city centres and venues when the time is right.

They also raise concerns that the advisory guidance around not mixing with other households which is currently in place in each of the cities is “unenforceable”, “contradictory and confusing” and “hugely damaging to businesses together with the effect of undermining public confidence” because in law the rule of six applies.

They go on: “By not permitting the mixing of households in the sanitised and socially distanced conditions of licensed premises or coffee shops complying with the rule of six, it is genuinely creating a position which is the worst of both worlds.”

Joe Anderson said: “We need to find a way to adjust the restrictions to ensure a balance in protecting public health and the need to protect businesses, many of which are teetering on the brink.

“Liverpool is a city which has built its revival on the leisure and hospitality sectors and it is a massive contributor not just to employment but also to business rates which fund vital local services.

“The vast majority of our businesses have responded in the right way, investing heavily in providing safe, compliant environments and a place for people to enjoy themselves safely. The inspections we have carried out show a very high level of compliance.”

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