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City leaders warn coronavirus restrictions could destroy hospitality sector

Leaders from Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester made a joint plea.

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Three men walk past the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool city centre (Peter Byrne/PA)

Three men walk past the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool city centre (Peter Byrne/PA)

Three men walk past the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool city centre (Peter Byrne/PA)

Leaders in Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester have warned the Government their hospitality sectors are at risk of collapse unless coronavirus restrictions are reviewed.

In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the leaders and chief executives of the three city councils said restrictions in place in the regions were threatening a “huge, disproportionate” economic impact.

The city bosses said hotel occupancy was down to 30% and footfall had dropped by up to 70%.

In the letter, they said: “The stark reality is that these businesses are facing the prospect of a complete decimation in trade, not just in the short term but as we look ahead to the sector’s traditional lifeblood of the Christmas period and almost certainly continuing into spring/summer of next year which we know with certainty will result in mass market failure, huge levels of redundancies and depleted and boarded up high streets.”

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People out in Manchester city centre (Danny Lawson/PA)

People out in Manchester city centre (Danny Lawson/PA)

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People out in Manchester city centre (Danny Lawson/PA)

Guidance in place in the cities advises people not to mix with other households but the council leaders said it was “unenforceable” as well as being “contradictory and confusing”.

They called on the ministers to make the advice law, and compensate businesses with a package of support, or allow mixing within the “rule of six” in controlled environments.

A new law banning the mixing of households in public spaces, including pubs and restaurants, was announced for parts of the north east of England on Monday but it remains advice rather than law for many other areas in the north.

The city leaders also called for the Government to review the 10pm curfew and engage with local authorities and businesses to discuss considerations in advance.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We need to find a way to adjust the restrictions to ensure a balance in protecting public health and the need to protect businesses, many of which are teetering on the brink.

“Liverpool is a city which has built its revival on the leisure and hospitality sectors and it is a massive contributor not just to employment but also to business rates which fund vital local services.

“The vast majority of our businesses have responded in the right way, investing heavily in providing safe, compliant environments and a place for people to enjoy themselves safely.

“The inspections we have carried out show a very high level of compliance.

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A woman is handed an order of a Sunday lunch served from the Three Horseshoes public house in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

A woman is handed an order of a Sunday lunch served from the Three Horseshoes public house in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

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A woman is handed an order of a Sunday lunch served from the Three Horseshoes public house in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

“People in restaurants are in Covid-safe environments with high levels of sanitisation and appropriate spacing.

“Forcing people to leave at 10pm runs the risk that they then go on together to a house in a large group which does not have the same measures in place.

“It is also devastating for the restaurant trade because it is depriving it of a late sitting which makes up a substantial part of its takings and is the difference between survival or going under.

“We can’t have a one size fits all measure for the whole of the country, we need to be able to take account of local circumstances if we are to stand any chance of helping businesses through this intensely difficult period.”

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