'I strongly believe there is an argument for opening restaurants now'

Michael Caines has unveiled his latest project to complement his existing portfolio, including Lymps

Michael Caines has unveiled his latest project to complement his existing portfolio, including Lympstone Manor. Photo: Michael Caines Collection - Credit: Archant

This week’s news that hotels and restaurants cannot open until mid-May was a bitter pill to swallow.
It doesn't make much sense to me that our sector must wait another month to open while other, closer contact sectors such as gyms, can reopen earlier.
And whilst outdoor hospitality can re-open, how can any business reliably base their operations on the English weather?
It’s hard to fathom how the government can expect our sector to run on empty for so long.
Whilst I accept that this is a very difficult and massive problem to navigate, I really do question the rationale. It just doesn’t make sense.
I take most things in my stride but this week’s news has left me feeling disappointed and angry.
To make matters worse, the chancellor's latest support package is not due to be announced for another week.
That will be another long wait to hear how the sector will be supported during this continued, enforced closure.
For many it is another week of holding on to their already struggling businesses with another 11 weeks on the clock. 
While there is uncertainty about what Rishi Sunak will announce, what  isn’t in doubt, is that we, as a business, are now going to face making some very tough decisions. 
With the lifting of restrictions in May, it seems that our industry has been singled out, all the while shortening what could be a profitable season and reducing the opportunity to make back the losses in what could have been a great spring of staycations.
The government acknowledges that hospitality is a core part of the UK’s economy, yet this has not been recognised in their roadmap to recovery.
Quoting directly from their socio-economic impact report, the whole accommodation and food services sector was estimated to be worth £57.6 billion in the UK 2019, providing 2.5 million jobs.
A massive 1.6 million people of the hospitality workforce were furloughed in both the first lockdown, and 1.1  million were furloughed in November.
The question is, more importantly, out of the 2.5 million employed before the pandemic how many have lost their livelihoods?
Between January 25 and February 7, 62% of businesses in accommodation and food services had paused trading. How many of those will be able to reopen and who will remain?
I strongly believe there is an argument for opening restaurants now.
The environment is controlled, our staff have been trained, we have all the right PPE and social distancing is easily achieved.
I can’t think of many public places that would be safer to go to. 
We must hold onto the hope that this will be the last enforced lockdown and that May 17 will be the start of the building blocks for the long-term recovery of the industry and the millions that have been affected.
We anticipate there will be a pent-up demand for dining out and that staying away from home is here to replace stay at home! 

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