The rule of six will cost Christmas trade ‘billions,’ experts have claimed, as restaurants fear there will be no party trade and self-catering providers are hit by swathes of cancellations.
From Monday, new lockdown rules in England will mean no more than six people will be able to gather indoors or outdoors.
The hospitality industry says it has already been hit hard by this week’s announcement from Boris Johnson, with self-catering holiday homes seeing ‘thousands’ of cancellations, according to the Professional Association of Self-Caterers.
Yesterday Mat Hancock faced a grilling from Conservative MPs over the new measures, as Sir Desmond Swayne asked if govenment policies were ‘having an impact worse than the disease itself?’
Mr Hancock said the new rules were ‘necessary for the public health of the nation’.
There are also warnings that the new rules could take billions away from retailers preparing for the Christmas rush.
Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman told The Guardian: ‘I think that this could reduce retail spending by billions. Toys and presents will obviously be bought but I think clothing sales will be hit.
‘Clothing retailers need the fillip triggered by going to parties and family gatherings. That’s clearly going to be significantly curtailed.’
‘Thousands’ of holiday rentals on self-catering cottages and homes have been cancelled following the rule of six announcement on Wednesday, the Professional Association of Self-Caterers has said
Michelin star chef Tom Aikins has warned a lack of Christmas party bookings could see restaurants close, unless offices are allowed to book in groups larger than six.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘For a lot of restaurants and hotels, its their bread and butter business at this time of year going into Christmas. If that’s not happening, it’s possibly going to make restaurants shut down.’
NEW LOCKDOWN RULES FOR ENGLAND FROM MONDAY
- Max social gatherings SIX PEOPLE
- Applies indoors and outdoors
- Applies in private homes
- Applies in pubs and restaurants
- Does NOT apply to schools or workplaces
- Does NOT apply to weddings, funerals, team sport
- Does NOT apply if household bubbles are bigger than six people
- Police will be encouraged to break up larger groups and issue £100 fines, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, feared new rules would wipe out the positive impact of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
She told The Guardian: ‘The fear is that, having built momentum over August and brought back two-thirds of our workforce from furlough, consumers get nervous and feel they can’t go out. There was a very clear don’t socialise message.’
Self-catering holiday homes are also at risk, following what Martin Sach, chair of the Holiday Homes Association, described as a ‘devastating’ period of lockdown.
Asked about the impact the rule of six could have on larger properties, Mr Sach told MailOnline: ‘It’s going to have a major effect on a substantial part of the holiday market.
‘Owners of these properties are not going to be able to let them for the normal price, they’ll have to let them according to price of a six-person property.’
Alistair Handyside, chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers said smaller holiday cottages may escape harm, but it could devastate larger properties.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘Not many people want to book six people into a property that’s designed for 25 and rattle around. So they will probably be bereft of bookings for the next few months.
‘What it will mean in the short term is no income and refunds, so they’ll go into negative turnover for the next three months as they refund the guests that would’ve come.’
Larger holiday cottages will be ‘bereft of bookings,’ says Alistair Handyside, following Wednesday’s Government announcement
He added: ‘The cancellations have been started, all I’ve been dealing with all day is owners who are haemorrhaging of bookings just as they started to recover.
‘This self contained space is the safest space that’s available for for paying guests to stay in.
‘These houses are prepared properly, the guests go in, they’re in their own self-contained area not sharing it with other groups as they would in a hotel, or bed and breakfast or a pub. This is a very safe space where they can control their own group.
‘We’re mystified as to why this limit hits self catering but you can still book 20 hotel rooms.’
Mr Sach said the start of lockdown was ‘devastating,’ for self caterers, saying most owners were eligible for a Government grant of up to £10,000, which ‘wasn’t large enough’ to cover losses from earlier this year.
He added: ‘We’re still waiting to see what regulations are passed as well, plus we don’t know yet what’s going to happen to people who are already staying in holiday homes.’
Michelin star winning chef Tom Aikens warned restaurants could shut unless they manage to get Christmas party bookings
Speaking to the nation from No10 this week, Boris Johnson said a spike in Covid infections over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March. ‘We must act,’ he said.
He signalled that the ‘rule of six’ limit on how many people can socialise together will be in place for some time to come.
Apart from a vaccine, he said the only other way out before Christmas was a ‘moonshot’ of introducing mass daily testing for everyone, but admitted that would require ‘everything to come together’.
There are now concerns that restaurants could shut as they lose vital Christmas party trade.
Michelin star chef Tom Aikins, who runs Muse in Central London, told Radio 4: ‘We just opened last week on Thursday we were starting to take some bookings for Christmas.
‘It was all looking a little bit rosy until the announcement that’s just happened.
‘I don’t think there will be many Christmas parties.
‘I can’t imagine big offices turning out as a table of six. It’s not really fair on the others.
‘A lot of restaurants and hotels, its their bread and butter business at this time of year going into Christmas if that’s not happening its possibly going to make restaurants shut down.
‘It’s unfair towards the hospitality industry, particularly this time of year.
‘It’s the busiest time of year and yet you can still travel in large groups of people on the Tube and on the Underground.’
Asked on Wednesday whether he had abandoned his stated ambition to have the country back towards normality by Christmas, Mr Johnson said: ‘Whether we are going to get things back to normal at all by Christmas, I’m still hopeful, as I’ve said before, that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.
‘I talked just now about how you could do that. Through that Moonshot of daily testing – everybody gets a pregnancy-style test, a rapid turn-around test in the morning, 15 minutes later you know whether you are infectious of not.
‘You may not know whether you are infected or not, but you know whether you are infectious, or not, and that gives you a kind of passport, a freedom to mingle with everybody else who is similarly not infectious in a way that is currently impossible.’
He added: ‘We are aiming for that. We are driving for that. As I have said…we cannot be 100 per cent sure that we can deliver that in its entirety.’