The Westminster government’s new curbs on pubs, restaurants and bars come as "another crushing blow" for the hospitality sector "just as it had begun to recover", and must be applied "with flexibility".
That was the view of UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) after the government confirmed pubs would be required to close at 10pm and provide table service.
Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: "These restrictions will come as another crushing blow for many hospitality businesses struggling to recover so it’s crucial these new rules are applied with flexibility.
"A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus - we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period. Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops."
Nicholls said the measures were unnecessary when only 5% of infections out of the home stem from hospitality, adding such measures have largely served to damage businesses and cost jobs rather than cut rates of Covid infection.
She added the move would prolong the sector’s pain "long into 2021", stressing new support measures had become essential.
"We need to an early signal that the VAT cut will be extended through to the end of 2021; that the business rates holiday will continue next year; and an enhanced employment support package specifically for hospitality," said Nicholls.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said while public health was paramount, the measures would come as a "huge disappointment" to the hospitality industry, "just as it had begun to recover".
Guevara added the new measures would impact smaller businesses and SMEs, such as cafes, taxis, restaurants and bars, who rely on commuters and passing trade for their businesses and livelihoods.
"While the government’s measures should have an impact in terms of slowing down the virus, asking people to work from home will immediately impact jobs, causing further damage and setback to the UK’s fragile economic recovery," said Guevara.