Thousands of pubs and restaurants will collapse unless the bulk of their rent arrears are permanently written off, Hugh Osmond has said.

Speaking to The Sun, the Various Eateries director warned it would be “curtains for most operators, whether large or small,” if they have to repay the some £1.6bn in rental debt the industry has built up over the pandemic.

“For the survival of hospitality this needs sorting out,” he said. “None of us wants to see our favourite pub or restaurant boarded up for ever.”

Osmond’s comments follow the latest eviction moratorium extension, announced earlier this week, which will see the protection run until the end of March 2021.

Responding at the time, UK Hopsitality CEO Kate Nicholls welcomed the news, but warned that it must be accompanied by long-term and financial support to avoid a “calamity of evictions on 1 April.”

Osmond agreed with this position, adding that this short-term fix will only serve to worsen the situation in the long-term.

“Every quarter the moratorium goes on will only add to the backlog,” he said.

Instead, Osmond proposed a “rent forgiveness” approach, based on the Australian model, with the proportion of rent forgiven matching the sales lost during periods when pubs, bars and restaurants were closed or heavily restricted.

Announcing the extension on Wednesday, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said it would be the “final extension,” intended to give tenants and landlords three months to come to an agreement on outstanding rent payments.

The government is also said to be reviewing commercial landlord and tenant legislation, and is due to release further guidance and support in coming days.