Downtown in Business CEO Frank McKenna has written to Mersey political leaders warning bars, restaurants and hotels needed urgent intervention. Tony McDonough reports
Bars, restaurants and hotels in Liverpool are suffering “massive “ issues with cashflow amid the coronavirus shutdown and the sector requires urgent attention, a business leader is warning.
Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business has written to senior political figures, including Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Merseyside Labour MP Alison McGovern asking for more intervention.
Most hospitality businesses across the UK we shut down at the end of last week on the orders of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There were real fears that too many people out socialising was leading to an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 among the population.
Some have started offering delivery services but are still facing a huge fall in cashflow. The Government has unveiled a range of support packages to help stricken businesses including Government-backed loans, one-off grants of £10,000 and £25,000 and help with up to 80% of staff wages.
While he welcomes these measures, Mr McKenna is concerned there is not yet a proper system in place to make sure the support is getting to where it is needed fast enough. He says further intervention is required to make sure Liverpool city region’s £5bn visitor economy doesn’t take to big a hit.
In the letter, he writes: “There is about to be a massive cashflow issue for many establishments; the support from banks is patchy and personal guarantees are still being required. Insurance companies are refusing to cover businesses and Bookings.Com are advising individuals to go directly to operators to get their money back rather than postponing their bookings – adding further pressure to cash flow.
“… I appreciate that public health and protecting our most vulnerable is your priority at the moment. However, more than any other, our city region economy has been built on the visitor economy. We need people to have jobs to go to once this is over.”
In an interview with LBN, Mr McKenna said he feared a repeat of the financial crash of a decade ago when he says that while Government did attempt to help businesses many more founded themselves “screwed” by the banks.
“In terms of the help from Government, a proper delivery process has not yet been put in place. I understand local authorities are handling the grants but they are already under severe pressure right now.
“And if banks and insurance companies are found to be exploiting the situation then I would like our leaders to consider a legal challenge. After 2008, expectations weren’t met and this seems to be happening again. We need strong words from our leadership.”