Hospitality and events industries react to freedom day

With a respite in the disruption of the hospitality and events sectors, a number of businesses are able to operate as intended for the first time since March 2020.

SMEs have been particularly affected by the constant changes in legislation aimed at mitigating Covid transmission. Two offer their reactions to the easing of restrictions here.

Nooreen Jafferkhan from Essex is the owner and director of Fete Lounge and Fete Roome in Upminster, East London. Staff at the afternoon tea lounge and cocktail bar are excited to reopen fully but Nooreen, 40, has mixed feelings about the new systems and the future.

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceShe said: “The government has ended the compulsory need for masks, social distancing and tracing, however, as a business we still have a duty of care to all our staff. One positive case can shut a small business down for a week!

“Businesses are being put in a position to police the system. We have very little influence on our customers and cannot stop nor force people to comply. Our main focus is protecting the staff by continuing testing, using masks in high-risk areas and tracing every time they are at work.

“We have also gone from a walk-in environment to a bookings-based, seated arrangement, which has led to us retraining staff to work the floor. Spending habits changed when we introduced an app. These have been long-term investments for us and we are looking to retain most of these features.

“The ‘pingdemic’ has led to last-minute cancellations causing us to rethink how we take bookings, deposits and so on. There needs to be more investment to make hospitality ‘pandemic-proof’ and businesses need to use the changes they have made as part of a long-term strategy and not a short-term fix.”

Who London is an events club for Londoners aged 50-plus. Due to the nature of her business, Alexandra Felce, 37, is taking a measured approach in the interest of her customers’ safety.

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceShe said: “We are waiting until everyone has been double-vaccinated before hosting our relaunch event. This is in part due to differing views on mask wearing. Whilst we don’t legally have to wear them, we need to look after vulnerable people and the government is still encouraging mask wearing for indoor spaces. For Who London, the ‘end’ of mask wearing at events is essential since everyone is meeting new people and seeing faces and expressions is therefore really important.

“Our members receive a drink token so ideally they would go to the bar and choose a complimentary welcome drink from our Who London menu. The bar is a good place to socialise at ease but crowding at this time means high risk. Whilst it may be easier for venues, the ‘all or nothing’ approach post-freedom day won’t work for our events club where members and guests come to make new friends/find a partner.

“The ‘pingdemic’ effect is a good idea to limit transmission but there are a few people who might not have the app, so it’s important we keep a record of our event attendees’ contact details as we did pre-Covid. Should a Who Londoner be ‘pinged’ then they will need to wait 14 days from recovery to attend the next event if they are unwell or have a positive test result. We are hoping the double vaccination certification programme protects our event attendees though as we have regulars and are growing the size of our events.

“It’s a case of balancing the aspects of opening up the hospitality industry. At Who London, it is not just about mandatory practice but we have a moral and ethical duty to look after our event attendees as much as we can.

“There needs to be better guidance for events, clubs and venues. Who London agrees with Paul Scully who said that he agrees with Boris Johnson’s plans but the government should offer clarity on the definition of large crowded places.”

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