Budget 2021 Leeds: Pubs and restaurants welcome extended furlough and extra cash as they prepare to reopen
Pubs and restaurants in Leeds have welcomed the extra measures to support the hospitality sector announced in the Chancellor's Budget.
Rishi Sunak used his Budget to set out a £65 billion spending package this year and next year to support the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.
He announced 'restart grants' of up to £18,000 for hospitality businesses and the extension of the furlough scheme, VAT reductions and the business rates holiday.
These measures have been welcomed by hospitality venues in Leeds, who say they will have to "'start their business all over again" when they reopen outdoor areas on April 12 at the earliest.
Dale Wynter, co-owner of popular Leeds restaurants The Beehive and Chophaus, supports the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of September.
The Government will continue to fund 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed staff, but businesses will be asked to fork out 10 per cent of the sum in July, rising to 20 per cent in August and September.
Dale said: “If we’re trading, I think it’s fair for us to contribute. The Government has supported us well overall.
“We’re looking at opening with a reduced rota so we don't have as many managers in, making sure they work within a flexible furlough scenario.
"As trade pics up, we can reduce that and open up more. It almost transitions us, rather than just putting everybody back on the payroll and expecting it to be just as it was.”
The Chancellor announced that hospitality venues will be eligible to apply for a 'restart grant' of up to £18,000 per business.
Dale said the extra cash will help to utilise outdoor spaces at Beehive and Chophaus, in preparation for any further restrictions.
He welcomed the five per cent reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, which has been extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5 per cent for another six months after that.
"It takes a huge amount of pressure off", Dale said.
"Putting money away and having cash in the bank, after what has happened, is obviously a priority in the business to make sure we have a cash reserve if anything like this happens again.
"The year that we’ve had so far has depleted personal resources and business resources. It’s been tough."
Jo Heywood, the landlady at the Gaping Goose pub in Garforth, will also be taking advantage of the furlough scheme extension - operating with reduced staffing when the pub first reopens.
Like Dale, Jo believes the restart grants will be a big boost to help small businesses get back on their feet.
She said: "You can’t just open, you have to replenish all the stock and throw some stock away and you don’t get money back for that. It’s like starting a business all over again.
"It’s that boost that people forget we need".
Dale added that the biggest challenge this summer will be responding to the uncertainty of how people will spend.
He said: “People's behaviours will have changed, there will be people who are still concerned or scared, or not as inclined to be in group situations.
“And people’s spending habits have changed. They might have realised they don’t need to go out as much, or they enjoy cooking at home more.
"Maybe things won’t be as busy, but this is Britain - I imagine as soon as people can get drunk in the sun, they will!"
Budget announcement a 'step in the right direction'
The founder of Tattu restaurants, Adam Jones, said the Budget announcements were a positive "step in the right direction" but called for VAT relief to be extended in full for 12 months.
Due to local and national lockdowns, the chain's Leeds restaurant has been closed for six out of the nine months of the scheme being in place.
Adam said: “Today’s Budget announcements have provided the first positive steps forward to allow us to focus on the road to reopening, working towards returning to levels of trading that we were operating at before the pandemic struck.
“While the extension on business rates relief until June is welcomed, I would have liked to have seen the Chancellor echo the decisions made in Scotland to extend rates relief in full for 12 months.
"This would provide many hospitality businesses that cannot reopen until 17th May with a little more breathing space and an opportunity to build back lost revenues and relieve some of the crippling financial pressure that we’ve experienced being closed for 10 out of the last 14 months.
“Continuing the VAT reduction is absolutely the right decision for businesses to be able to properly benefit from its intended purpose, and will undoubtedly have a positive impact for many operators.
“The extension of furlough is a step in the right direction and gives us some flexibility to bring our teams back to work to prepare for reopening.
"However we’re still incurring costs of around £70,000 per month while we remain closed.
"It was disappointing to see no further mention of the Furlough Retention Bonus, which was a level of support that many businesses had been relying on to offset some of the costs incurred by the Furlough Scheme.
“In addition to the financial measures announced today, the government must now turn its support to building back consumer confidence to return to our towns and city centres and encourage public spending to ensure the survival of the place-based businesses from hospitality and leisure through to arts, culture and entertainment, that we’ve all missed so much.”
The chief operating officer at New World Trading Company, which owns The Botanist in Trinity Leeds, said she welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme - but warned there could be a bumpy road ahead.
Natasha Wakefield said: "The extension of the furlough scheme is very much appreciated and welcomed by our business.
"It does, however, shows that the path to recovery for hospitality is unlikely to smooth. The extension allows us to continue to retain our most valuable asset - our people - if the roadmap is delayed. We look forward to re-opening in line with the government planned roadmap.
"The additional announcement for grants, VAT and Business rate are pleasing to hear and our focus now shifts to preparing for April and May re-openings".
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