Lounges and Cosy Club boss calls new tiering ‘bewildering and unfair’

The chief executive of cafe bar chain Loungers has urged the Government to reconsider the “ill-thought-through” new Covid-19 restrictions and warned of long-term consequences for local communities.

Boss Nick Collins said the new restrictions imposed are “bewildering, unfair, appear to lack any scientific basis” and will decimate the industry.

He added: “These most recent interventions, at the most critical time of year for the sector, will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, see the demise of thousands of pubs, bars and restaurants and leave vacant properties across the UK.

Loungers bars and cafes have seen a fall in sales as the Covid-19 pandemic hit (Loungers / PA)

“The impact on the livelihoods and health of the sector’s predominantly young workforce and on communities and high streets across the UK will be felt for years to come.”

The comments come a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £1,000 grant to “wet led” pubs, but many in the sector said this was not enough.

Mr Collins added: “I would strongly urge the Government to engage with our sector, provide immediate, targeted support where required, and re-consider the ill-thought-through policies that have brought much of our industry to its knees.”

The company, which trades as Lounges and Cosy Club, said 60 sites will remain closed under Tier 3, 91 sites are trading in Tier 2 and three sites trading in Tier 1.

In Wales, the group has 14 sites that will be subject to increased restrictions from December 4.

The Loungers chief’s assessment comes as the company revealed sales in the six months to October 4 fell 33% to £26.3 million.

The period covered 11 weeks of the first lockdown, four weeks of phased re-openings, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and five weeks of the “Rule of 6”, a 10pm curfew and local lockdowns in Wales.

Pre-tax profits hit just £117,000 during the period but the company said it was optimistic for 2021 and could see opportunities for expansion as rents fall.

During the open periods, Loungers said like-for-like sales rose 25.1% between July 4 and October 4 but adjusted pre-tax profits – which exclude one-off costs – fell 8.8% to £13.2 million.

The company said: “Covid-19 has provided both the requirement and the impetus to evolve our offer at pace.

“The successful introduction of our order at table app and the need to reduce the scale and complexity of our menu whilst maintaining its broad appeal are clear examples.”

It added that Loungers expects to benefit from “an increasingly tenant-friendly property market, where prime pitch properties in strong target locations are available at attractive rents”.

Mr Collins said: “As we dare to look beyond Covid-19, Lounge and Cosy Club have never seemed more relevant, and we approach 2021 with enthusiasm and optimism.

“Our strong balance sheet will enable us to get back to doing what we do best, opening 25 sites a year, creating over 500 jobs a year, investing in high streets across the UK and looking after our customers and teams.”

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