Labour has called for a sector-specific extension of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, warning that a blanket withdrawal will force many late-night hospitality businesses to close.

The JRS, which was initially introduced at the start of the national lockdown in March, started tapering out last month, and is due to close at the end of October.

But with consumer confidence still far below pre-lockdown levels, and certain areas of the late-night sector still closed by government order, Labour has warned that the pub and bar sector could see a wave of closures unless it received further support.

“Pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities up and down the country,” said Lucy Powell, the shadow business minister. “They have been hit hard by the pandemic, and Tory indifference and incompetence over many years means that many have gone to the wall.

“Ministers’ blanket approach to ending the furlough scheme further threatens the future of many more. The furlough scheme must be extended for hard hit sectors to save jobs now.”

Alongside its calls for a furlough extension, the party has proposed a ‘Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund’, whereby funds leftover from the government’s business grant scheme could be redeployed to “businesses still in distress.”

Labour’s calls come after recent analysis carried out by the party revealed that more than 5,500 pubs and bars have closed since the Tories entered government in 2010.

Last month, BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin said she would welcome a sector specific furlough extension, as a survey carried out by the trade body revealed that one in four pub and brewery businesses didn’t think they would survive past March 2021.