The head of a major island pub chain has heavily criticised the Government for failing to talk directly to industry bosses, especially over the recently announced 22:30 closing time.
In emails sent to Health Minister Richard Renouf, which Express has seen, Randalls Managing Director Gavin Reid, writes that the Government has “complete disregard” for the licensed trade.
Mr Reid writes in his email to Deputy Renouf: “I am trying every hour to make plans for the survival of Randalls. At not one moment have you chosen to engage with our company, an organisation which is at the coal face to listen to our views. Your decisions are clearly based on statistics, rather than involving yourself with the people who are dealing with this crisis day to day.
“Can I ask when was the last time you took a night out in town, and fully understood what is actually going on in reality? When I took on the responsibility of this company, I spent weeks going back to the working floor within various departments, even delivering barrels of beer, to understand how each and every cog of our business worked. My strategy was, how can I run a company if I don’t understand how each and every department plays their role."
Pictured: Mr Reid thinks that there should be a staggered approach to closures to avoid a "mass congregation" of people in the streets.
”Perhaps a suggestion to break away from the political model of lip service to the public, and engage with the businesses who fund the budgets you clearly choose to ignore, might be a more effective strategy during this crisis?”
Mr Reid adds that the early closure for licensed premises to 22:30 has simply moved the risk of covid transmission elsewhere.
“While I will always fully respect and appreciate any restrictions that are put in place to prevent any further increases in covid and alleviate any potential lockdown, I do have to question the logic which surrounds your recent measure to close all hospitality venues an hour earlier. I have always maintained a staggered approach to closing licensed premises removes the mass congregation of people onto the streets as is currently being experienced at 10.30 pm.
“I have never been one to throw stones, but it does irk me that given all the additional measures we are currently taking to ensure our licensed premises are safe with increased frequencies of cleaning, correct social distancing, recording of customer details, staff wearing masks... I could go on... that clearly all this is all being done in vain if the public can then congregate in takeaways after 10.30 pm with no measures for social distancing.
“I hope you can understand my frustration that given we are effectively being penalised by closing an hour earlier, that the rationale for this decision is clealry thrown in the bin with the images I have highlighted. Surely given our on-licensed outlets are far better regulated and have a responsibility to keep both our staff and customers safe, that common sense prevails here?"
Meanwhile, Jersey's restaurants, bars and hotels collectively have said they will back any new physical distancing restrictions if the Government offers its support in return.
On Monday, Health Minister Richard Renouf confirmed that distancing guidelines were likely to return to the 2m rule, but the details of that are being finalised this week.
Jersey Hospitality Association chief executive Simon Soar said that the industry was preparing its response.
“If the 2m distancing guidelines meant, for instance, that a family couldn’t sit around the same table or if two households can’t socialise as a bubble, that would decimate the industry over Christmas,” he said.
Pictured: JHA Chief Executive Simon Soar.
“Christmas is incredibly important for businesses in hospitality because it sees you through to the spring. Without the Christmas boost, many could fall flat, and no one wants to see that happen.
“But, equally, no one wants to be the industry that cancels Christmas so we will get behind the Government and support whatever measures it introduces to beat this virus, especially as case numbers rise.
“In giving our full support, we hope the Government also understands the pressures we face and is able to reciprocate with its own support."
That support, he suggested, could come in the form of resuming the original co-funded payroll scheme, which paid 80% of wages up to £1,600.
"That would, I’m sure, be seen as positive sign of the Government’s commitment to the industry," Mr Soar commented. “However, we appreciate that nothing has yet been decided so we are already engaging with Government on this.”
Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that Ministers would be discussing the 2m rule this week, as they bring in more measures to avoid a second lockdown. It might not be a community-wide rule and could be targeted at various scenarios, such as check-out queues.
“We are committed to supporting jobs and businesses, which is why we introduced the co-funded payroll scheme back in March,” he said. “The original scheme has recently changed to become more dynamic and tailored to each individual business but we are closely monitoring the situation and certainly could adjust it again in future.”
Ministers have also previously suggested that they will bring in some ‘bubble’ rules to allow families and friends from different households to spend Christmas together.
On Monday, Chief Minister John Le Fondré said that the island was on “the cusp of a lockdown” and there would be “unnecessary deaths” if people did not follow measures set by the Government, which now include the mandatory wearing of masks in indoor public spaces such as shops, supermarkets and taxis, and a recommendation that islanders work from home if they can.
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