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Gloucestershire Business News

Return to tier restrictions sparks mixed response

Changes to tier restrictions and the end of lockdown in England have been described as both "a sigh of relief" and "killing Christmas" by trade groups.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans for the return to the three-tier coronavirus restrictions when the current lockdown ends just after midnight on December 2.

Shops, gyms and personal cares will be able to reopen, while collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports will resume with the rule of six applying to meeting people in outdoor public spaces and non-essential foreign travel allowed if quarantine rules are followed.

But differing rules will return dependent on which tier an area is in which is due to be confirmed on Thursday.

In a change from the pre-lockdown rules, pubs in tier one will be able to open until 11pm but with last orders at 10pm.

Only pubs which serve substantial meals are able to open in tier two - and can only serve alcohol with meals - while they will remain shut in tier three except for delivery and takeaway.

And spectators will be allowed to return to sports fixtures in tiers one in two.

Clubs will be allowed to have 4,000 people in tier one - dropping to 2,000 in tier two - or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is the lowest figure.

While the changes have been welcomed in some quarters, the continued restrictions on the pub and hospitality sector have been met with criticism.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The Government is making a point of saying that these measures are needed in order to save Christmas.

"In reality, they are killing Christmas and beyond for many businesses and their customers who look forward to, and rely on, venues being open at this time of year."

She said a tightening of restrictions should not come at the expense of hospitality with the lack of household mixing limiting any advantages of being able to reopen in the lowest tiers.

"Tier three will be lockdown in everything but name for hospitality and will leave businesses almost no room for manoeuvre," she said.

"With household mixing still not permitted, businesses in tier two are going to find revenues severely slashed at a crucial time for the sector."

Emma McClarkin, chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the new measures "unfairly target pubs".

She said: "The additional restrictions will destroy our sector if they go ahead as proposed. While the review of curfew is overdue the relaxation of the 10pm curfew is meaningless if most pubs are rendered unviable or forced to close under tiers two and three.

"We are asking the Government to reconsider their approach and allow pubs to play their vital role in local communities over the festive period, bringing people together safely and providing some much-needed festive cheer this Christmas, and essential trade to keep our locals alive."

But the announcements were welcomed more positively from other sectors, although many concerns remains.

Federation Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: "Many small firms across England will be breathing a sigh of relief to hear that they'll be able to reopen their doors once again after the second national lockdown.

"Many will continue to remain anxious as businesses await to discover what tier they will be placed in and the impact that will have on their trading.

"We are grateful for those that have held back their Christmas shopping until this moment to support their local shops which means that, for the small business sector, Christmas shopping can finally begin."

He continued: "It is important the threat of suspending Sunday Trading laws is also parked, which would take trade away from small businesses to large supermarkets that have already benefited from the November lockdown of their competition.

"For many small businesses the next few weeks should be the busiest period of the entire year, but city centres, towns and high streets have seen footfall collapse, and it's vital that there is a clear path for recovery.

"So that's why for whichever tier a small business is placed under, the Government should match this with a strong, proportionate level of support."

CBI acting director-general Josh Hardie said the coming weeks waiting for a potential rollout of a vaccine will "feel like purgatory" for many firms.

He said: "As the crucial festive period approaches, adapting curfew and opening more of the economy will be a boost for many.

"But harsh measures and ongoing closures will continue to risk business failures in many sectors.

"The combined efforts of business, government and society should now focus on helping restrictions ease, not tighten once more."

The announcement gyms can reopen was welcomed by trade body ukactive, but chief executive Huw Edwards questioned restrictions on indoor group exercise in tier three restrictions.

He said: "The economic recovery of our sector is inextricably linked with the future of our nation's health, and this package of support requires increased public health messaging about physical activity.

"Reopening is a major milestone, but it's also just a start. We need to continue our constructive engagement with the Government to secure the support the sector needs and agree a plan that ensures it can play its full role in improving the health and wellbeing of the nation."

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