Millenium Square (Copyright: Luke Andrew Scowen/
Millenium Square (Copyright: Luke Andrew Scowen/

The hospitality industry usually relies on the busy period at Christmas to balance the books over the year.

But increasing fears about Covid are increasingly deterring customers from bars, restuarants and nightclubs. I know many of Bristol’s fantastic hospitality businesses are desperate after an almost impossible two years, where they have had to cope with lockdowns, changing government restrictions, cautious customers, staff illness and then staffing shortages this year. All this has left many businesses struggling to catch up, even before the Omicron wave became apparent.

And it’s not just the hospitality sector that is affected. All kinds of businesses, from beauticians to taxi drivers, are likely to see a change in custom.

To understand the situation better, I’ve set up a survey on the impact on businesses in my constituency of Bristol West. If your company is affected, please take five minutes to tell me your concerns and how I can help. 

From working to support Bristol businesses over the last two years, it is clear how serious the impact could be. Christmas party and event cancellations are already hitting the revenue of bars and restaurants. The rapidly changing situation is also likely to pile costs on businesses that have stocked up in anticipation of a busy period, only for this stock to expire – as happened when restrictions suddenly changed in Bristol previously. And for events that do go ahead, illness and Covid isolation is likely to make it hard to find staff.

All this will give Bristol’s hospitality sector little reason to celebrate this festive period.

There are three things Labour would do right now:

  • We’d freeze business rate till the next revaluation, and we’d change the threshold to make it easier for small businesses especially in hospitality and retail.
  • We would provide more breathing space for businesses to allow them to get back on their feet and have more flexibility with the timescales of paying back existing pandemic loans.
  • Labour would raise Statutory Sick Pay and make it available all workers, including the self-employed and those on low wages currently cut out by the lower earnings limit for eligibility.

In 2020, my team and I worked to support hundreds of businesses that had been affected by lockdown. We helped inform them of changing regulations and link them up to grants and other support. We also held a series of events bringing together hospitality companies, arts organisations, tourism providers and Bristol City Council, helping them get the support they need.

I was relieved that following pressure from Labour the government eventually brought in the furlough scheme and the self-employment support schemes in 2020. But there were still many who fell between these schemes, so I also took these concerns to government, repeatedly writing to ministers and raising questions.

We have all been through so much in the last two years. On top of the loneliness, illness and personal tragedies we have all been through, those working in Bristol’s hospitality sector have also seen their work devastated. I will do everything I can to support them during this difficult and uncertain time.

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