'It's essential you hit the target' - fears for hospitality industry after Welsh budget

The hospitality industry has faced a tough few years with the pandemic, followed by the cost of living crisis.

With people strapped for cash, fewer of us have been going out, while COVID-19 saw businesses forced to close their doors completely.

The challenge has been increased by the Welsh Government's budget on Tuesday, which means pubs and restaurants will have to pay more in business tax.

Rate relief is reducing from 75% to 40%, sparking fears from the Welsh Beer and Pub Association that businesses in Wales could be worse off to the tune of £6,000 a year compared to their competitors in England. The discount there remains the same.

Like other businesses, The Philharmonic in Cardiff is hoping for a strong Christmas. Credit: ITV Wales

The Welsh Government warned this would be the toughest budget since devolution, with hard choices made to protect the NHS.

That will provide little comfort for the industry, however, with fears even before this week's announcement the new year could bring job losses.

Michael Kill, the CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, worries about job losses in the new year.

Talking ahead of the budget, Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: "There are a lot of businesses at risk in the early part of next year and what comes with that is obviously the jobs and livelihoods of one of the biggest employers of under 30s.

"We've got to consider that there's going to be a huge impact. We know that that's coming. We know that businesses are not performing to the level that they need to to get through the early part of next year."

The NTIA is calling for targeted support from the UK Government to help the sector.

Christmas is traditionally the busiest time of year.

Talking about the importance of performing well in the next few weeks, Nick Newman, chair of the Cardiff Licensees Forum and a pub landlord himself, said: “You signal these big marquee months if you want to put it that way, in your financial forecast and it’s absolutely essential that you hit the targets because we all know what happens in January.

"It goes very quiet and on top of that, really, we’ve been trying to make up pace from what we lost after the couple of years of the pandemic and the various stresses and strains that cost of living etcetera have cost us."

Like others, Nick wants to see greater government support for the sector.

Unlike some others in the industry, Nick Newman is feeling optimistic for the new year.

However, he feels optimistic ahead of the new year.

He said: "It has been a tricky time but we're coming into that time of year, really, where we expect things to be big and certainly at the moment it's looking [good]. The streets are packed tonight.

"We've had a good December so far and we hope that's going to continue into the new year."

Looking to the future of hospitality in Cardiff, Nick added: “Generally I would say it’s an optimistic picture for Cardiff city centre. We’re doing pretty well but you just never take anything for granted. You’ve got to be right on your game in terms of what you’re offering customers, by way of value, by way of service, by way of refreshing your offer all the time.”

There are calls for the UK Government to support the sector. Credit: ITV Wales

In response, a UK Government spokesperson said: “At the Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced £4.3 billion of support for small businesses and the hospitality sector, including 75 per cent business rates relief, freezing alcohol duty rates, and reducing employer national insurance. 

“In 2021 we published the UK’s first Hospitality Strategy to improve the resilience of the sector and established a Hospitality Sector Council to oversee its delivery. We’re working closely with the industry to tackle the challenges it faces, and we’ll continue helping them to grow and thrive in their local communities." 

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