Senior directors are considering boycotting rent amid a wave of mass closures to hit the restaurant and bar sector, MCA understands.

A senior sector CEO, who declined to be named, told MCA there was a growing consensus among industry leaders that they should boycott rent in order to prioritise paying their remaining staff as revenues grind to a halt.

Landlords have a duty of care to the community and the staff who face losing their jobs if they repossess venues, said the director, who runs a major group with sites around the UK.

He told MCA: “Our view is that people shouldn’t pay rent. It’s ridiculous, we have zero revenue.

“I speak to other CEOs and we are asking should we all just boycott rent?

“If no one paid, what are the landlords going to do? The courts would be overwhelmed.”

The operator, who has prominent sites in London, said he had kept on as many staff as possible, though had had to temporarily lay some off.

On his strategy to deal with the crisis, he said: “My advice is look after your staff. Everything else you’ve got to negotiate. You’ve got to get cash from banks and shareholders.

“We’ve done a deal with HMRC. We said to the landlords we’re not paying rent because we’ve got no revenue.

“Smaller suppliers we will pay, but others we’ll say, please park this. We’re also owed money for events, so we’re obviously in the same boat.

“We’re trying to lock everything down, freeze payments and make sure we pay our staff.”

He added that paying staff was a much higher priority than paying rent.

“Do I care about the landlords as much as the young kids working for us? No.

“Some of them are big landlords, worth billions, and they are demanding their rent, which in turn means thousands of people losing their jobs.

“Landlords have a duty to the community. Forget the fact they’re screwing over their tenants. They have a duty to the workers in the community.”