As we move through this pandemic (with no end in sight) we discover that circumstances can change very rapidly. This happens so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up with the latest developments befalling the licensed trade (for they mostly befall the licensed trade, seldom being of the ‘blessing’ variety) in a monthly magazine.
Our Main Story this month, for example, went to press just before Level Three came into force and before we learned what was to befall (that word again) the drinks industry in Budget 2021.
But what’s emerging clearly is that the country needs to find a level of ‘acceptable risk’ and to live with Covid-19. The damage that this virus is wreaking on the population and the resultant fatalities must be balanced now against the irreversible havoc that’s being wrought on the country’s economy. Critical care & ICU bed availability should be not be the arbiter of the Covid Level introduced, rather, critical care & ICU beds should be increased as required at whatever cost to dampen growing public apprehension about where a surge in demand for these might leave us.
No government should have to strike this balance but we are where we are, to paraphrase a previous government.
What’s also emerging clearly is that there is some distance between what the government promises the hospitality trade and what it delivers.
Actions, not words, define a government’s credibility. Until the Budget the government’s actions rather than its words have shown it to be one lacking in credibility with the country’s pubs, restaurants and hotels.
Alongside other employers those in hospitality received the Temporary Wages Subsidy Scheme payments within 48 hours of their applying for them. This system worked in allowing management to keep on employees.
But replacing this with the Employment Wages Subsidy Scheme which now delays payment up to six weeks makes no sense. Pubs that had been deprived of income for six months and others trying to make ends meet on 50% capacity are now expected to pony up more money from empty space.
That shows the credibility gap at its best between an out-of-touch fully salaried-up government and formerly flourishing businesses now trying to survive this pandemic with some sort of livelihood as best they can.
This lack of ability to live in the ‘real’ world was reinforced (prior to the Budget announcement on assistance for the industry) by the words of LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe when he pointed out, “We already had one very false dawn when it comes to the Government providing support when we got spin and little substance”.
Here’s hoping that in post-Budget mode this government can add to the substance side of the provisions it’s making for the hospitality industry.