Where to begin? The events of the last four months have been disastrous for everyone, from the smallest SME to the global economy, not to mention the general public. And the face of hospitality has significantly changed.
Since lockdown lifted I’ve been served by people in branded face masks, full face transparent visors and had my temperature taken with a thermo-imaging gun. I’ve been barked at for stepping the wrong way, smiled at for stepping the right way, and talked to a landlord who’s gone the extra mile in terms of safety at his pub while staff at the pub he used to run have phoned him in tears because the new landlord refuses to do anything to keep them, or their customers, safe.
It’s a mess. Some would say there is nothing to be protected from because the entire coronavirus crisis is overblown, others are still afraid to go out. Thousands of jobs have evaporated and there will be more, despite the best efforts of the inventive, generous and empathetic chancellor Rishi Sunak.
It’s unlikely those words have ever been used to describe a chancellor throughout history, but the coronavirus has created a truly historical event. Events are one thing that makes history, people and decisions are others, and sometimes all three combine to create an unholy mess. This is one of those times and history will not be kind to those who led us to this point. The virus may dissipate but its legacy will linger.
Of course the ‘event’ element was not the fault of anyone in the UK, but people who have spent their political careers working towards a position of power are elected precisely to react to events, however unpredictable they are, in a way that protects citizens.
Manifestly this government has failed to do that. They neglected to prepare for what was coming, when it did arrive they failed to act. When they did act the approach has been muddled and confused, like the vague approach to testing, the rank incompetence over PPE, the flip-flop messaging around masks, the awkward leaks of information to gauge public reaction before policy was formed, the arrogance of unelected political strategists flagrantly ignoring their own lockdown instructions, the shambolic delays surrounding reopening guidelines, the list goes on.
Meanwhile hospitality was shutdown with no parachute and left to plummet. It did not have a happy landing. Even if you look at those that could reopen, some of the biggest brands in the business are staring at restructuring, insolvency, or CVAs. It’s true that hospitality is unique in that it has received special attention, the VAT cut has been welcomed, some operators have used it to cut prices, others know they need it to survive. And though reaction to the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme has been mixed, many industries have not been afforded the relative luxury of a tangible incentive for people to get out and get spending.
Still, massive issues haven’t, and won’t, just disappear. Rent is the biggest. It remains hugely problematic and will be the death of many who have run up against landlords insisting on payment from empty coffers. A rent moratorium helps, but it’s just a stay of execution while bills increase in the background.
Having ordered hospitality businesses to stop earning money, the government needs to find a way to help them meet, or manage, the costs incurred throughout the period in question. But so far it’s simply delivered a limp code of conduct suggesting landlords and tenants work it out between themselves.
Some will but many won’t and operators will go out of business as a result. Some already have. It’s not just unfair to hospitality but irresponsible. In a crowded field, rent has risen to the top of this crisis as the number one issue and ‘play nice’ is no panacea for the rent-related ills caused by lockdown. A solution needs to be found. Yes, the coronavirus is a huge and unpredictable event, but certain people need to take big decisions to prevent things getting even worse.
Huge events, important people and big decisions
Where to begin? The events of the last four months have been disastrous for everyone, from the smallest SME to the global economy, not to mention the general public. And the face of hospitality has significantly changed. Since lockdown lifted I’ve been served by people in branded face masks, full face transparent visors and had my temperature taken with a thermo-imaging gun. I’ve been barked at for stepping the wrong way, smiled at for stepping the right way