Rishi Sunak’s £1bn Covid lifeline for hospitality sector will not cover loss of crucial trading, business bosses say

  • To ease fears about Christmas trading, the Chancellor announces a huge Covid cash injection
  • Firms can get grants of up to £6,000 to offset further losses due to pandemic
  • Hotel group claims it doesn’t go far enough, and the pub boss insists it is ‘inadequate.

Rishi Sunak announced a £1billion bailout for the hospitality industry yesterday to help firms hit by a collapse in Christmas bookings.

Businesses struggling because of the Omicron variant will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000.

The statutory sick leave for Covid-related absences will be covered by the taxpayers for both small- and medium-sized businesses. It came on the day Britain’s debt pile – with more than £400billion already spent on countering the pandemic – hit a record high of more than £2.3trillion.

There was a mixed reaction from businesses to the announcement – with one hotel group boss branding it a ‘dud cracker’. 

The Chancellor stated that the generous grants are comparable to those given when hotels were closed in January.

And he said it was ‘important to remember we have support already in place that lasts all the way to next spring’ – including a reduced rate of VAT and business rates for the hospitality and tourism sectors. 

Sunak explained that the Omicron variation has caused uncertainty in hospitality and leisure industries.

‘So we’re stepping in with £1billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the statutory sick pay rebate scheme and further funding released through the culture recovery fund.’

Employers with less than 250 employees will have the option to apply for the statutory sick-pay rebate program. They will receive reimbursement for Covid-related absences up to two weeks each.

Mr Sunak also said an additional £30million would be made available through the culture recovery fund, and more than £100million will be available for local authorities to support other businesses.

These will help. 

After losing more than 100 customers in a matter of days after Plan B was implemented, a landlord in a village pub has supported the Chancellor’s hospitality initiative.

Marc Strzyzewski is 38 and runs The Tiger Inn At Turnditch in Derbyshire together with Rosie, 30, his wife.

Their Thursday Pie Nights are well-known, with 178 different varieties.

He said, “I felt relieved to hear Rishi’s announcement.” These grants are crucial for restaurants as we’re losing customers at this time. We often have to survive January and February without the Christmas season. However, we have had many cancellations. 

Strzyzewski’s family has owned the inn for over 22 years. He said that he was able to weather the pandemic until this point after switching from selling take-out meals with no delivery charges.

But with the arrival of winter, takeaway orders began to dwindle leaving the restaurant more reliant on in-house reservations – which plummeted with the arrival of Omicron.

Strzyzewski said that he needed more clarity from Government. This helping hand has made us a lot more successful than we might have otherwise. Thank you.


Tim Rumney of BWH Hotel Group Great Britain was the chief executive and said that the package was “like a cracker for Christmas Day”.

He said that although support is welcome, “it just doesn’t do enough to solve our problems,” he stated on BBC Radio 4’s PM program.

To make ends meet, Christmas sales account for approximately a third to a quarter of the industry’s annual revenue. 

Critics welcomed the offer of help but argued the £6,000 grants would not be enough.

Jonathan Neame (head of Britain’s oldest beer maker Shepherd Neame) said, “We are pleased that the Government is listening, but it seems insufficient to compensate millions of dollars of lost sales.” 

Des Gunewardena, who runs the D&D restaurant chain, said £6,000 would not even cover his restaurants’ Christmas decorations. 


After almost two years of pandemic struggles, Nick and Carrie Smith were looking forward to a busy Christmas period at their board games cafe to ‘put some much-needed money in the bank’.

Ludoquist, a cafe that opened in Croydon (south London) in 2017, sells pizza, drinks, and more than 1500 board games.

Omicron struck, and the Government advised that the public limit the socializing of customers. The cliff was reached.

The space was for over 100 people and they were expected to have ‘eight’ or ‘nine’ of their most busy Fridays.

Mr Smith, 54, said last weekend alone they lost more than £6,000. He said, “If we’re about to close down again, then the Chancellor should think about offering much more.” 

“I don’t mean to be rude, but he’s trying to pretend to Santa Claus. In reality, he is the Grinch.


He added: ‘Many of our larger restaurants lost £100,000-plus from cancellations last week. The same thing happens again this week, and it’s not clear what will happen on New Year’s Eve.

‘So each of those businesses is facing £200,000-plus losses and has been offered £6,000 which doesn’t even cover the cost of our Christmas decorations.’

According to The Institute of Directors the assistance will provide ‘welcome relief’ for many businesses. 

Roger Barker, policy director, stated that businesses need to be assured that the measures they have taken will continue into 2022 despite the winding down of some support programs at Q1 2022 (such as the VAT reductions for hotels and business rates support).

Rain Newton-Smith is the chief economist of Confederation of British Industry. He stated that any new lockdowns must be accompanied with additional support.

She stated that the Government should closely monitor the situation and make sure any restrictions are accompanied by targeted cashflow support.