Rishi Sunak meets hospitality leaders to discuss Covid support as crisis deepens

Rishi Sunak has met with hospitality leaders today as pub and restaurant owners warn the industry is back in pandemic “survival mode” with financial help over Christmas yet to materialise.

The Chancellor is holding in person talks with the industry today after facing criticism over his trip to California while the spread of Omicron began to have a damaging impact on the economy.

Industry leaders held talks with Mr Sunak remotely on Thursday to discuss the possibility of a new support package for hospitality after Government scientists urged people to consider cancelling Christmas plans.

Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UKHospitality, as well as bosses from Nando’s, Greene King, Adnams, and Prezzo, were among those on the call.

Mr Sunak has been urged to freeze business rates, reduce VAT rates for the sector, and provide targeted support for the most heavily affected parts of the industry.

Already businesses have closed early because customer numbers have plummeted this week following the Government’s press conference on Monday.

First Dates bartender Merlin Griffiths, who owns the Dog and Gun in Leicestershire, said every one of his Christmas bookings have been lost: “All our bookings have now been cancelled. Might just close the pub for Christmas. This is appalling.”

Michel Roux, from the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London, called on Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak to listen: “My daughter’s restaurant has had over 300 cancellations in the last two days… gone from breaking even to a loss. Hospitality and the supply chain need help, this is deja vu March 2020”.

Many in the industry have said they believe the tone has shifted immeasurably since Monday, when the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told people to be cautious due to rising Omicron infections.