Covid Plan B: Hastings pubs and restaurants each face £10,000 in lost takings over Christmas

Pubs and restaurants in Hastings say the Government’s Covid Plan B announcement will cost them an average of around £10,000 each in lost takings over the Christmas period.

The town’s hospitality sector is still reeling from the financial hit of recent lockdown restrictions, and Christmas is traditionally a time when businesses bring in enough cash to get them through the barren months of January and February. The Government is under pressure to relaunch furlough and other emergency financial support schemes after imposing working from home orders in England because of the spread of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus.

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Some hospitality businesses in Hastings say they have already seen cancellations of pre-booked Christmas parties, regular customers staying at home, a general downturn in trade in comparison to the last few weeks, and a general sense of confusion and uncertainty leading to slow sales for shows and events including New Years Eve.

John Bownas SUS-200312-101015001

The snap survey in Hastings - carried out by business support group Love Hastings - was triggered by a call from the UK Hospitality trade association to ask the Government to introduce fresh financial support for the sector to avoid further job losses and business closures. Around half of the Hastings businesses that took part said they were already looking at takings being down significantly on pre-Covid numbers. Almost a third had been predicting 25 to 50% decreases in sales, with one in six projecting over 50% of trade being lost. And now that Plan B has been put in place, many businesses are already reporting signs from customers that things will get even worse. Over a half expect the impact will result in an additional loss of no less than 25% - and in a significant number of cases over 50%.

John Bownas, manager of Love Hastings, said: “We need to echo what is being said at a national level in terms of calling on the Government to provide much needed support at a critical time of the year. The industry is talking about a national loss to the sector of some £4bn – and certainly the sorts of comments we had from those who took our small survey in Hastings would indicate a lot of the public are definitely going to be wary about socialising as long as these restrictions remain in place.”

More than 130 hospitality businesses across the UK - including Pizza Hut and Caffe Nero - have written to the Prime Minister to raise their fears over the negative impact of Plan B.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “The measures announced last week will significantly impact consumer confidence and be particularly devastating to city and town centre venues. As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year. We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the government to stand behind our industry. That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.”