According to guidance published on Tuesday, three households will be allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ for five days over the festive period and visit each other’s homes and stay overnight.
However, they will not be able meet up with their bubbles inside pubs, hotels, retail venues, theatres or restaurants between December 23 and 27.
Pub bosses have slammed the government over the rules, describing them as a ‘betrayal’ and warning they could devastate the hospitality industry with analysis suggesting individual pub landlords could lose £50,000 in pints sales.
The British Beer and Pub Association says that at least 180 million fewer pints will be drunk in pubs in December because of the rules and the restrictions will mean that 90 per cent of venues will not be able to operate profitably.
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has also warned the government’s policies could have a devastating effect on hospitality jobs.
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin is one of several pub industry leaders to hit out at the government for not allowing Christmas bubbles to meet in pubs
Up to three households can gather at Christmas – but will not be able meet up with their Christmas bubbles inside pubs, hotels, retail, theatres or restaurants between December 23 and 27
He said in a statement: ‘No one in the Government seems to have any experience of running a business – and their current policies seem destined to cause the loss of a million jobs in hospitality, with further ‘ripple effect’ job losses throughout the economy.’
The association, meanwhile, has written to Rishi Sunak demanding greater financial support while accusing the government of inflicting ‘unnecessary and irreversible pain’ on the sector.
It has also demanded that the evidence behind the decision be published in full.
Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: ‘These plans for Christmas make a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas.
‘How can it be that pubs cannot properly open while households can mix in private settings?
‘The Government data has consistently shown that house-to-house transmission is one of the highest, whereas hospitality has accounted for as little as 2% of Covid incidences when open.
What are the UK-wide rules for Christmas?
- Three households will be allowed to form a ‘Christmas Bubble’ and meet indoors.
- Easing of rules will apply for five days, from December 23 to December 27.
- ‘Christmas Bubbles’ will be allowed to gather in private homes, in outdoor spaces and in places of worship.
- UK-wide nature of the plan means people will be allowed to travel across the country to meet with family.
- This includes to and from places in different tier levels, and between UK nations
- ‘Christmas Bubbles’ must be fixed and cannot be changed – households have to be exclusive.
- ‘Christmas Bubbles’ will not be allowed to meet in hospitality settings like pubs and restaurants.
- People in a bubble will not have to adhere to social distancing.
- But they are advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.
- Guidance on carol singing and other issues will be published later this week.
- Children whose parents are separated will be able to move between two separate bubbles.
‘Pubs are a controlled, safe and regulated environment to socialise in – following all Government guidelines and working with NHS track and trace. They are part of the solution for a safe and enjoyable Christmas, not the problem.
‘It seems the Government has chosen to inflict unnecessary pain and irreversible damage on our sector without publishing evidence alongside these decisions.’
The new Christmas bubble measures will be in place from Wednesday December 23 to Sunday December 27, paving the way for families in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to meet up.
Travel across tiers in England will also be allowed, as will journeys between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But in a blow for the hospitality industry, the Christmas bubbles will only be allowed to meet up in private homes, places of worship and in outdoor public spaces.
Rules for pubs, restaurants and other venues will remain the same under whichever tier they find themselves in at the time.
In Tier 2 areas, this will mean that pubs can only sell alcohol if customers buy a substantial meal to go with their drinks. In Tier 3 zones, they will only be able to sell takeaway drinks.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, accused the Government of ‘muddled thinking’ over the exclusion of hospitality businesses from the relaxed Christmas rules.
She said: ‘This is rapidly turning into the nightmare before Christmas for hospitality. While no-one begrudges families getting together over the festive season, the safest place to do so would be in well-managed and controlled hospitality venues.
‘It is also surely better for hotels to be open and providing a place to stay than multiple households being cramped in a single house.’
Ms Nicholls added: ‘For the Government to exclude these businesses in these new rules demonstrates muddled thinking and will cause the sector yet more harm coming so soon after the announcement of the new tier restrictions.
‘Hospitality venues should be considered part of the solution for providing people a well-deserved safe and enjoyable Christmas, especially given that allowing multiple households to mix in the confines of private homes presents an exponentially greater risk.’
Labour MP Emma Hardy, who represents Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, asked on Twitter: ‘Why can families not meet in a restaurant over the ‘relaxation’ period during Christmas? Our hospitality trade will not recover if they miss out on trade during this crucial period.’
Ms Hardy said she had submitted questions to the Government asking for ‘the evidence base’ for the decision.
The new Christmas bubble measures will be in place from Wednesday December 23 to Sunday December 27, paving the way for families in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to meet up
Ms McClarkin argued that pubs should be ‘fully compensated’ if they could not open over Christmas.
‘Christmas is the most important time of the year for trade in our sector,’ she added.
‘This year more than ever. Without it, thousands will not survive the winter unless the Government does the right thing and steps in with financial support to help them. That means grants that fully cover their fixed costs, like during the first lockdown.
‘We all need some festive cheer after this tough year – and we want everyone to be able to enjoy a beer in their local pub with family and friends this Christmas, safely.
‘After all, Christmas just won’t be the same if we can’t go to the local.’
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the Government had ‘ripped the vague remnants of Christmas spirit from the hands of many businesses within the sector’.
‘The new restrictions coming in next week and relaxation for many businesses over Christmas, and the intentional exclusion of the night time economy within the Christmas plans, has made many frustrated and angry at the lack of consideration for people and businesses,’ Mr Kill said.
He added: ‘The Government has simply got this wrong. It is an appalling misjudgement, at such an important time of year for everyone.
‘Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside Government departments, to ensure that our businesses are Covid Safe, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base.
‘We have been intentionally sacrificed for other sectors to open during the festive period.’
Boris Johnson is also facing pressure from his own MPs over the new coronavirus tiers, set to be announced later in the week.
MPs have warned Mr Johnson that putting swathes of the country under draconian Tier Two and Three restrictions will be ‘catastrophic’ for businesses and spark a damaging new mutiny.
Ministers insist they are waiting for the latest local infection data to decide what brackets individual areas will be placed into, with the breakdown set to be published on Thursday.
But Whitehall sources said very few districts would in Tier One, where indoor socialising will be allowed.
An insider said it was ‘entirely possible that no one is in Tier One’ when the latest Covid figures are analysed Wednesday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
Senior Conservatives say the ‘mood music’ is that most places will be subject to the tougher levels – meaning heavy restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as limits on households mixing.
There are complaints that the criteria being used to decide the Tier allocations are too vague, and the geographical areas too broad. MPs and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have been lobbying to stay out of the harshest levels.
Alarmingly for Mr Johnson, the chair of the powerful 1922 said yesterday afternoon that he is ‘inclined’ to oppose the measures in a vote next week.
Sir Graham Brady said he was concerned the damage being inflicted on the economy will leave a ‘legacy we could be living with for years to come’.
Mr Johnson confirmed that the blanket lockdown in England will end as scheduled next Wednesday, but cautioned that coronavirus curbs need to stay in place until Easter despite more good news on vaccines.