Hospitality venues must ‘recognise the bigger picture’

PUBS, bars and restaurants will have to accept further restrictions on how they can operate during December, a leading figure in the hospitality industry has said.

Simon Soar (29739628)
Simon Soar (29739628)

Simon Soar, chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, made the comments as the government weighed up additional measures designed to curb the steep rise in Covid-19 cases.

Ministers have said that more action will be necessary during the first half of December in order to avoid a return to lockdown and potential disruption to families at Christmas.

Mr Soar said Islanders’ desire to spend time with their loved ones over the festive season was the overriding factor.

‘We have seen some very big rises in cases, and Monday’s figures were a shock,’ he said.

‘The government has had to react. They can’t sit back and these aren’t easy decisions to make.

‘There is a big date coming up in 23 days’ time. People will want to see their families and if that can’t happen because of things that have happened earlier in the month it will reflect badly on hospitality.

‘As an industry we want to have a dialogue with government about what changes will come in and how measures will be enforced – we have to recognise the bigger picture.’

Although details have yet to be finalised, it is believed that licensing hours, already limited by a 10.30pm closing time, may be further reduced, while a return to two-metre physical distancing would also have an impact on the capacity – and profitability – of all venues.

Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that the government would look at the support available to businesses.

‘The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit sectors – they had a little bit of a breather at the end of the summer, but are now being affected again,’ he said.

Current measures allow businesses to claim support in line with the detriment to their business compared with the previous year’s figures – this is currently subject to a limit of 60%, but Senator Farnham said that cap might be reviewed.

Mr Soar added that the JHA’s focus was to work with its members, and the government, to help them through the current challenges.

‘With a couple of minor exceptions we have been very accepting of the measures announced by government,’ he said. ‘Operators have already been hit hard by the 10.30pm closing, and it would be heartbreaking if businesses didn’t survive, so my priority is to ensure they can get through and look forward to better times in the new year.’

Some operators are already planning for possible changes.

Dominic Jones, director of JPRestaurants, said that if two-metre distancing returned, venues in his group would switch to new table layouts and would probably cut the maximum number of customers at any one table.

Dominic Jones (29739633)

The group has already adopted measures regarding contact tracing, facemasks and enhanced cleaning, and would not have to make further changes as a result of measures announced earlier this week, Mr Jones said, adding that testing swabs for surfaces were being considered so that spot-checks could be carried out to determine whether cleaning had been effective.

Since starting to reopen JPRestaurant venues in August, Mr Jones said the business had had a good track record.

‘We have served between 45,000 to 50,000 people in our cafés and another 25,000 in our restaurants and we have had two instances of contact tracing, one of which affected an adjacent table, and no members of staff who’ve tested positive,’ he said. ‘We can’t guarantee what will happen in the future, or be sure that a super-spreader won’t come into one of our restaurants tomorrow, but we have shown that hospitality can be safe.’

Speaking at a press conference on Monday night, Chief Minister John Le Fondré issued a ‘last chance’ for those Islanders who had not taken earlier warnings seriously.

‘We are on the cusp of lockdown – be under no illusion,’ he said, adding that he was ‘absolutely furious’ at those who had knowingly, deliberately and recklessly flouted the guidelines, urging them to think about the impact of their actions.

The Chief Minister also confirmed that more than 30 new staff were being added to the government’s contact-tracing team, which will number 89 people by 7 December.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed two more positive cases at Island schools were reported yesterday.

A year group at Le Rocquier and a class bubble at Jersey College Prep were sent home as a result of the cases in order to allow track-and-trace processes to be completed.

The government had previously announced that five schools had been affected by positive test results over the weekend: Les Landes Primary, St Luke’s Primary, Jersey College Prep, Jersey College for Girls and De La Salle College.

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