We’ve all in some way been impacted by Covid-19, our unseen but very present foe! It has had the most impact on the night time hospitality and leisure sectors, which faced total shut down over 7 weeks ago, and it’s likely to continue to impact on the ability of night time businesses to open into autumn and potentially winter, and we will no doubt keep feeling the impact into the next few years as we plan to rebuild businesses and cities.
In 2005 the World Bank estimated that a global influenza pandemic would cost the world economy $800 billion and kill tens-of-millions of people, as of today (12th May 2020) according to the IMF the global economy is likely to contract by 3%, the cost of COVID-19 to the UK could rise above £100bn in 2020-21. In addition to this, support of approximately £330bn (equivalent to 15% of GDP) in the form of guarantees and loans has been made available to businesses. As reported in Hospitality and Catering news a report by Barclaycard shows that spending in restaurants, bars and pubs contracted by 96.9% [in April 2020 vs April 2019] as only takeaway and delivery operations were allowed. Worldometer says 4.18 million have tested positive across the world 288k have died, a testimony to incredible and talented health professionals across the globe and, swift governmental action in many countries. There has been, comprehensive support of the night time economy from the UK government alongside tenacity and creativity of businesses that have sought new ways of reaching their markets.
Our director Jo Cox-Brown takes a deep dive into the 60 page Covid-19 recovery stage document published by the government on Monday 11th May, and what it means for the night time economy.
The headline is the hospitality sector won’t be opening in any meaningful way before July 2020, and this is dependent on a variety of factors, we also know that the furlough scheme which has already safeguarded over 6.3 million jobs is being extended in it’s current guise to July, then in a more flexible format to the beginning of October, which gives us a good indication of when things might start reopening more widely. The important point to make is that due to a huge national effort the virus spread is starting to slow, so for that reason we must proceed with the utmost care and avoid undoing what we have achieved. I don’t know about you but even for an introvert like me 7 weeks in confinement is starting to lose its charm. Opening too early or too fast might create more infection cases and deaths as seen in Seoul this week. However, saving lives had to be carefully balanced with saving livelihoods, a key message in the document.
We have broken the guidance down into manageable chunks.
- Optimising the social distancing measures: This will mean different things to different night-time businesses, night clubs, festivals, busy city-centre pubs, clubs, and restaurants have always thrived on the atmosphere that a heaving crowd or full space with busy footfall brings with it. Cash flow models, rates, rents, staffing are designed for high footfall. So by reducing footfall by 50% it could render businesses unprofitable and therefore result in closure. For country pubs with large beer gardens, this will be much easier. Therefore in practice, we think this means each premises needs to create their strategy detailing how they will operate with social distancing measure in place (see sections 4 and 5 below for some ideas), and if you can’t socially distance then how else could you help people to use your facilities safely. This could be through takeaway, delivery, mask-wearing, taking people’s temperatures, reducing capacity or disinfecting people as they enter and exit. The government has advised that “The longer the virus affects the economy, the greater the risks of long-term scarring and permanently lower economic activity, with business failures, persistently higher unemployment and lower earnings. This would damage the sustainability of the public finances and the ability to fund public services including the NHS” therefore you need to find a way to open your business as safely as possible, whenever the restrictions are lifted which will be 4th July at the earliest.
- Working with businesses and unions to help people go back to workplaces safely: Leading figures in relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England are all working together. Relevant to the Night-Time Economy UK Hospitality, British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), Institute of Place Management, Instituteof Licensing (IOL), British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), Best Bar None (BBN), Association Town Centre Managers (ATCM) and Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) are all working at pace behind the scenes to liaise with the government departments to create strategies, checklists, and plans for reopening our towns, cities and businesses. If you aren’t linked to one of these organisations, please find the most relevant organisation and follow them, join them or seek guidance from their various publications, there is really useful material coming out on an almost daily basis that will help to guide you to safely to open your town, city, or venue at night.
- Business Feasibility: The government refers to technologies enabling new ways of doing business. Night time economy businesses have always been at the forefront of innovation and creativity. Therefore we believe that this is an encouragement to you to think of novel ways of doing business, good examples have been delivery and takeaway models, postal sales, businesses with outdoor space creating dining pods, online festivals, night clubs and DJ sets, online pub quizzes, subscription services, online drinks tastings paired with subscription services, drive through breweries, online ordering, instore online ordering and apps. We know that the possibilities are endless, however, if you are going to mix these with customers on-site then you will also need to create new protocols, staff training, perform thorough risk assessments and trial any new ways of working with staff before you let customers on site.
- Hygiene: As part of your plan to open you need to be considering how you as a business can minimise the spread of the disease through continuing good hygiene practices, it’s worth noting these aren’t going to be temporary measures these will be in place for some time. The Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet therefore we think Hygiennce measures for the night time economy include:
- Issuing of masks, gloves and PPE to staff and possibly customers depending on the type of venue (although understandably many trade bodies are resisting the idea of masks, you will have to make that decision based on your own risk assessment for your business, staff and customers welfare)
- Regular disinfecting of surfaces touched by others
- Installation of additional hand washing stations, or hand sanitiser points around the building but also on entry and exits
- Setting alarms to remind staff to wash their hands, at regular intervals such as every 20 minutes
- Providing and laundering uniforms (wash at 60 degrees or higher)
- Temperature checking staff at the beginning, middle and end of shifts
- Disinfecting shoes by providing a disinfectant trough and hand sanitiser on entry.
- Implementing additional cleansing routines of high footfall areas, toilets, entrances, exits, chairs and tables.
- New ways of ordering and food and drink collection
- Use of out door space rather than indoors space where possible as SAGE advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside
- Limiting the hours each staff member works front of house, this could be supported by the new flexible furlough scheme
- Trying to coordinate your staff to work shifts in teams if at all possible, to limit the number of households coming into contact with each other
- If possible designating a separate entrance and exit to your premises
- Smarter controls and managing risk: This is a two-phase approach. Once you have put controls in place, you will then need to ensure they remain in place so that social contact doesn’t become infectious by:
- Making contact as safe as possible
- Encouraging staff to self-isolate if they develop symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has symptoms or is confirmed as COVID positive
- Continually risk assessing your business
- Stopping hotspots developing by reporting outbreaks.
- Ensuring that your staff have as few as possible contacts to lower the risk. Take inspiration from the supermarkets and set directional flow in your premises and or use tape on the floor to set out 2m distances
- Respecting the steps: The core nature of the night time economy is about close social interaction. Therefore we must respect that this has the potential to spread the virus quickly. We know we will be the last to open sometime after July probably more likely September to December, depending on the type of business. Each step may involve adding new adjustments to the existing restrictions or taking some adjustments further. Therefore we must be patient. This means that we would recommend that you spend the time from now until opening creating the following, if you haven’t already:
- A cash flow forecast that will see you through until the end of the year
- A strategy for reopening
- A risk assessment for reopening
- A staff training schedule
- A communication plan for closure and reopening
- A restocking strategy, including PPE, disinfectant, cleaning materials
- Menus (drinks and food) that will enable your business to comply with social distancing, this may mean opening with a reduced menu
- Internal design work to allow social distancing
- New safety guidelines that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely
- Innovations you might want to trial to meet new guidelines
- Innovation: If you find a specific innovation that works for you or your sector and you think it might help others, or you want to explore innovation then UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will welcome grant applications for proposals to develop new technologies and approaches that help the UK mitigate the impact of this virus. You can find information on these grants here. The government has also indicated that it will invest in preventative and personalised solutions to ill-health, empowering individuals to live healthier and more active lives, and this will have an impact on the hospitality industry as there will no doubt be further pressure to make menus, snacks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks more healthy. This also fits with the pre COVID-19 global trend for more healthy living.
- Enforcement: This is a bit of a confusing mixed bag, as when the lockdown was implemented 7 weeks ago, the government and LGA wrote to councils asking them to take a lenient and moderate approach to enforcement of licensing legislation. However, in this document, it says that “the Government is examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance, as it has seen in many other countries. The Government will impose higher fines to reflect the increased risk to others of breaking the rules as people are returning to work and school. The Government will seek to make clearer to the public what is and is not allowed”. Our advice is that, as always it’s your responsibility to comply with all licensing legislation, uphold the Licensing Act and, comply with any licensing conditions and government guidelines on trading during COVID-19. If you are struggling with certain licensing conditions then do try and speak to your local Police and Council licensing team, and seek their guidance.
- Timings: The night time economy is scheduled for Stage 3 due to the high-risk nature. The Government’s plan’s current assumption is that this step will be no earlier than 4 July, subject to the five tests and further detailed scientific advice, provided closer to the time, on how far we can go. The government has laid out an ambition at this step to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas). Any business opening at this stage should also meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point or may be able to open safely only in part.
In conclusion, the Government has committed to carefully phasing and piloting re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. We don’t know what this will look like at present but it could be some cities, London boroughs or towns are chosen for reopening and then testing to see the impact. The Government has also committed to monitoring the effects of re-opening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world and establishing a series of taskforces to work closely with stakeholders in these sectors to develop ways in which they can make these businesses and public places COVID-19 Secure. Your responsibility as business owners and managers or towns and cities is to prepare to reopen by optimising social distancing measures for staff and customers, create a reopening strategy, create a risk assessment and test it before you open, be serious about putting in additional hygiene measure for the long term, think innovatively, take as much support as is available to enable this to happen and respect the steps and timings to avoid enforcement, if in doubt do reach out to organisations and local authorities who are there to support you and please do get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like any further advice or support through this challenging time.
The full document “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy” can be found here.