What a start to the year – it feels like 2020 has been extended for another 6 months!
With January now in the rearview mirror we thought we would take a look back at the past month and bring together some of the key stories of the month to maybe get a glimpse as to what February will hold for us.
Lockdown 3.0 started on January 6th and while the legislation on the restrictions lasts until 31 March, the plan to ease England’s lockdown will be announced around 22 February.
Meanwhile, the government has also extended The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020. Initially introduced in July 2020 and due to expire at the end of this month, the law allows any local authority to close or limit access to a premises or outdoor space that is seen as a social gathering point. These local council lockdown powers have now been quietly extended until 17 July.
So when are we likely to be allowed to reopen then?
With the next steps of the plan not being unveiled until 22 February and the budget coming quickly after (3 March), business needs to start planning based on best guesses – here’s ours.
As reported in BBC, schools look like opening on the 8th March at the earliest. Personally, given the Easter holidays will start about 3 weeks after the 8th anyway, I suspect there may be a slow reopening but generally, schools will not be reopened until after the Easter Holidays, around 19th April.
From what I hear, the current thinking of the government is that it will be at least another four weeks after schools return before non-essential shops would be allowed to open. And a further 4 weeks before pubs and restaurants can start to trade fully again. Even then, it is likely to be a slow return to normal with similar restrictions to those we had in place last summer.
By my estimates, I am not expecting things to return to ‘normal’ until the end of June this year. Starts to make sense why they have extended the local council lockdown powers to 17 July now doesn’t it?
It’s NOT hospitality’s fault
Despite hospitality being the default industry to blame for the spread of Covid-19, in a meeting of the Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee last week (27th January 2021), it was clearly stated that was NOT the case.
When asked about transmission within Hospitality, Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield County Council told the committee:
“Hospitality does not crop up as a terribly big factor on our risk radar. When we look at the common exposures dataset, hospitality is not a huge risk…There will have been transmission events within hospitality, but it is nowhere near the top of my risk radar.”
Dr Richard Harling, Director of Health and Care at Staffordshire County Council added:
“Similarly, back in the summer and autumn, once you put transmission between household members aside, the next most important one was transmission between different households. The hospitality sector did feature, but much lower down the list. “
You can find the full transcript here.
The call for help
In January, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on the Government to extend business support packages until the economy reopens. In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Tony Danker (CBI Director-General) asked for the furlough scheme, deferral of VAT and business rates holiday to be extended until the summer. He also requested that the targeted support through the furlough scheme beyond the summer.
UKHospitality has also called for action, urging the Government to:
- Extend the VAT cut to 5% for a further 12 months, and ensure it applies across the broad hospitality sector, to stimulate economic activity.
- Enact a further business rates holiday for hospitality for 2021/22 to protect communities and repair businesses.
It is also pushing for further support for the sector including:
- Implement a reformed Job Retention Bonus to allow continued investment in our workforce.
- Extend the repayment period for all Government-backed loans to 10 years, with an extra year interest-free.
- Defer tax payments further, to December 2021, to allow full trading before debts to Government fall due.
- Extend CJRS until the end of June, allowing flexible furlough.
- Assist the hospitality supply chain so it can support the sector’s recovery.
Let’s see what Rishi pulls out of his red briefcase next month.
And then there was Brexit too
Yes, Brexit finally happened. Years after the vote and back and forths and it is finally done and over…or rather just starting.
Endless streams of paperwork, regulations and permits causing border checkpoint delays are causing all sorts of problems. Wine prices look likely to rise by about £1.50 per bottle and we have already seen food prices rising (largely fruit and veg).
We have equipment and packaging that has been stuck in Germany for 3 weeks and no idea when it will be released. It will be interesting to watch things develop and of course, these are hopefully just teething problems but what seems clear is that the menus on UK restaurants, pubs and coffee shops are going to look very different when we are allowed to reopen – and the bill will too.
The good news…
Supreme Court backs the little guy against the big Insurers
A bit of good news. The Supreme court has ruled in favour of small businesses regarding their business interruption insurance. The BBC has a good overview here, but this is great news and I really hope that it will actually result in people receiving payouts. I do know some people who have already had a claim accepted but after speaking with our insurers we were given the scripted response:
“the details are still being looked at right now, it will still take some time before we will be able to process any valid claims”
The time to act is now though and BigHospitality has put together a quick 5 point guide on how to make a claim.
A Minister for Hospitality
A petition started by Claire Bosi, editor of Chef & Restaurant Magazine, pushing for the creation of a Minister for Hospitality, gathered over 208,000 signatures and forced the issue to be heard. On 11 January 2021, after 90 minutes of debate at Westminster Hall, MPs voted in support of the motion to create a Minister of Hospitality. This doesn’t mean there will be any direct action as a result, that is down to Boris Johnson and his team, but it does raise the issue and force Boris to take it seriously.
UK joins the International Coffee Organization (ICO)
So we mentioned Brexit earlier. One thing that wasn’t held up with red tape was the UK officially becoming a member of the International Coffee Organization (ICO). This was done last Thursday (28 January) in tandem with the release of the ICO’s flagship report the Coffee Development Report 2020 (CDR2020). This year on the topic of ‘The Value of Coffee: Sustainability, Inclusiveness, and Resilience of the Coffee Global Value Chain’.
You can download a copy of the report and watch a recording of the virtual event here.
Coffee improves brain function and guards against Prostate Cancer
I always take research studies with a pinch of salt – there are some great studies out there but there are also some with suspicious sponsoring. That said, it’s always good to read a bit of research that puts coffee in a positive light. Here are a couple of studies from January:
- Higher Coffee Intake May Reduce Risk for Prostate Cancer
- New Research Says Coffee Can Improve Brain Function After Lack of Sleep, Because Duh