Help our restaurants and cafes bounce back
The restaurants, pubs and cafes found on our local high street are a crucial part of our communities, often forming the backbone of local economies.
The hospitality sector was the first to be hit, with custom down as a result of the virus before lockdown and has been the hardest hit sector during lockdown, accounting for a third of the slump in GDP in April and March.As we continue to make further progress in tackling coronavirus it is important that efforts are focused on both protecting lives and livelihoods.
I am glad the Government has been proactive in supporting the high street during this difficult time and introduced a number of measures including cash grants of up to £25,000 for eligible hospitality businesses, no business rates for a year and ensuring that businesses that cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus are protected from eviction.
These measures coupled with the furlough scheme have provided a lifeline for many businesses and their staff during lockdown. In Sleaford and North Hykeham we have seen 13,500 jobs protected via the furlough scheme and over £22 million of business grants paid out.
As restaurants open their doors again after months of closures we can all play a role now in ensuring they are able to bounce back and stay open.
To encourage people to support small restaurants at this time the Treasury has reduced VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent on eat-in or hot takeaway food and established the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. This scheme provides a 50 per cent discount off meals eaten at any participating businesses through Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum of £10, giving customers the confidence to eat out to support small restaurants.
Pubs, restaurants and others that participate will be fully reimbursed for the discount by the Government, paid out within five working days.
I’ve enjoyed a couple of meals personally with restaurants partaking in the scheme and spoken to a number of local proprietors who have been enjoying much greater business as a result.
It appears this enthusiasm has been shared across the country, with the scheme being used more than 35 million times in its first two weeks - equivalent to over half of the UK taking part! You can find participating establishments nearby through the following website: www.gov.uk/guidance/get-a-discount-with-the-eat-out-to-help-out-scheme
Returning to our favourite local haunts, from village pubs to our favourite eateries, is an important step in returning to life as normal as possible.
After extensive Government support for this sector during lockdown, now members of the public can support these businesses with their own custom and I would encourage people to continue to dine out safely to ensure their favourite spots are able to bounce back better.