14 October 2020
ANN TONKS is the managing director of Birmingham city centre restaurant OPUS. She says the new ‘Tier 2’ restrictions placed on Birmingham is a backward step and will lead to a significant decline in bookings at many hospitality venues in the Second City.
The impact of the PM’s announcement that Birmingham is being thrust into Tier 2 is devastating to the city and to our hospitality industry.
We are going backwards.
As a result of being in Tier 2, Opus estimates we will witness a decline of at least 60 per cent of our bookings; single households do not account for that much of our business. This will be true of many of our colleagues across the city. The overall affect on sales means our turnover will be at best 15 per cent of normal, pre-Covid levels.
Staff working hours will have to be radically reduced. With no further financial help from the Treasury, there will be huge redundancies and restaurant closures. Even two weeks as a Tier 2 city is financially unviable. Therefore, we desperately need the government to bring back flexible furlough to support employees and further grants to ensure the industry remains viable under these further restrictions.
They must recognise support must come with these devastating and ill thought through restrictions. The lack of further financial help is mind boggling. We had essential Treasury help as we came out of lockdown; where is it now? How sad that it would be better financially to be forced to close than to try and stay open under these further restrictions; at least Treasury support is there for complete closures, not so for trying courageously to carry on.
We challenge the government to produce evidence that restaurants in Birmingham are spreading the virus. The majority of hospitality venues have been superb at compliance, but are now the victims of government failures. The lockdown was supposed to buy us time to get the basics right, like clear guidelines on mask wearing, development of test and trace.
Short term reactive measures from government need to stop. We need a robust, logical strategy for re-opening the economy with a clearly communicated plan. Yesterday’s announcement in Parliament did not accomplish that.
At the end of the day, our biggest concern is for our dedicated, talented team. This is all about people – their safety and their livelihoods.
Local authorities play a vital role in public services, and our regional authority, city council and the Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying on the city’s behalf in a compelling and robust manner.
So why has the government not engaged properly with these representatives of Birmingham citizens and businesses?