Independence Day: It Could Have Been Worse
Well, the clarity came, and it came sooner than perhaps we had expected given the last minute nature of so many government communications to hospitality during this crisis.
The guidance on managing our venues post-reopening is as vague as the leaks had led us to hope and gives publicans and restaurateurs a fighting chance of operating at a profit if the demand from the public is there (a big 'if'). Inevitably there is a mixture of excitement, hope and nerves - especially when bank balances and balance sheets are so stretched.
It would be churlish not to welcome this. Pubs and restaurants will not re-open 'as they were' (one of our key asks at Project Pint) but then it would clearly not be appropriate for them to do so right now, not least because the polling shows customers want reassurance.
None of this means that most hospitality businesses do not remain in imminent danger of bankruptcy. Most are running on fumes, and just the cost of re-opening risks insolvency.
We see two principle challenges.
The first is meaningful government action on the landlord-tenant relationship. If pubs and restaurants have to pay three quarters of rent when the moratorium ends on 30th September there will be mass bankruptcies.
And the second is the speed with which the UK consumer returns to 'normal' and comes back out to spend. On the one hand we are told that the consumer's personal balance sheet has never been stronger. On the other, there is palpable fear of a second wave of the virus.
Many operators are calling for the government to tweak the furlough scheme so that it rewards a return to work rather than staying at home - both from a hospitality team perspective and (almost more important) to get people out of the house and back to something resembling the old normal - which of course includes going to the pub! We would support this.
At Project Pint, our energy will remain focused on ensuring that pubs return to their pre-crisis state as soon as possible when it is safe.