Pub and travel bosses demand plan for easing lockdown in England | Hospitality industry

Pub and travel bosses have demanded that the prime minister produce a detailed roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England, amid mounting friction between the government and business leaders.

Ahead of an update on the government’s plans, due on Monday, increasingly irate pub executives urged Boris Johnson to mend fences with the industry by offering clarity about the way forward.

Separately, in a letter to the prime minister, the travel industry warned “we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again”.

It comes after a group of pub chain chief executives withdrew from weekly talks with officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), citing a “lack of interest and respect”.

Several said said they were still in the dark about ministers’ plans since the breakdown of talks, instead hearing secondhand about proposals that have caused dismay, such as opening pubs without alcohol, or allowing outside service only.

Chris Jowsey, the boss of the 1,000-strong pub chain Admiral, said: “They release things in the press and if they get a bad reaction they change their mind.

“To my knowledge there’s no meaningful consultation going on at any level.”

Relations between the pub sector and government worsened further this week after industry figures took umbrage at Johnnson’s claim that hospitality poses a high risk of coronavirus infection.

As hospitality figures lamented a lack of government engagement, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, came in for criticism on social media over an interview with TV chief Gordon Ramsay.

Pub bosses pointed out that they had enjoyed no such dialogue.

“We’ve got 3.5 million people waiting to hear if their jobs are safe and we can’t tell them. That’s pretty shocking,” said Patrick Dardis, boss of the 300-strong pub chain Young’s.

He said ministers had a “Victorian perception” of pubs because they do not visit them apart from at elections and do not understand that modern venues can open safely.

Dermot King, the boss of pub chain Oakman Inns, said the lack of communication was symptomatic of the government’s approach throughout the pandemic, citing a list of policies that have angered bosses.

“The whole Scotch egg debacle was never discussed with the industry, the 10pm curfew was never discussed before it was introduced,” he said.

“Opening up but only with beer gardens was not discussed, or even the concept – which I have to believe was made up – of pubs reopening without selling alcohol.

“It indicates that somebody in government isn’t taking the problem seriously enough.”

A BEIS spokesperson said the department would “continue to engage relentlessly with the hospitality sector, as we have done throughout this pandemic, and our door remains firmly open”.

The travel industry swung behind calls for a gradual return to business as usual, in its own open letter to the prime minister, arguing it cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again.

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The industry, led by travel agents’ body Abta and including travel firms Tui, easyJet and Jet2, called for recognised vaccine certificates that would allow people to make journeys before everyone has been vaccinated.

They also want the Foreign Office to restore travel guidance based on regional Covid-19 data, so that people can travel to areas of other countries where infection rates are low without facing quarantine restrictions.

They also called for increased financial support for businesses facing restrictions, a call echoed by a third letter to the prime minister from the Events Industry Alliance, which represents exhibition and event firms.

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