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Govt announces support package for catering sector ordered shut over Christmas

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Gibraltar’s bars and restaurants will receive a grant to cover losses incurred when restaurants were ordered to close on December 18, in a new emergency support package announced by the Gibraltar Government on Thursday.
A spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said businesses are expected to apply the funds towards their ordinary business expenses, while expecting that employees would have been paid their contracted wages over this period of closure from December 18 to December 27.
Meanwhile, 99% of claims for perishable goods have been paid out in full, with the Government adding that this is a “testament to the measured way in which the vast majority of the claims have been submitted”.
The financial support package was announced following engagement with the Gibraltar Catering Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses in respect of the period from December 18 to December 27, 2020 when restaurants were ordered to close as Covid-19 numbers rose dramatically.
“As the incidence of Covid-19 in Gibraltar dramatically increased in mid-December, Government reluctantly and on very short notice announced the closure of all bars and restaurants at their busiest time of the year,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.
“This was based on Public Health advice at that time and was demonstrably the right decision for our community. Imagine where we would be today if those steps had not been taken.”
“On December 23, Government invited catering businesses to submit their claims for compensation.”
“The completed claim forms have allowed the Government to formulate a financial support package that is fair but above all can be distributed quickly.”
“Unavoidably, this package will be less precise than the previous BEAT schemes but this higher level of precision was forgone in recognition of the short notice and the one-off nature of the support.”
The financial support package is in addition to the 30% Beat payment for December 2020 as well as the other measures of support previously announced, the Gibraltar Government said.
The Emergency support package consists of a reimbursement of the costs of perishable goods lost by catering businesses as a result of the sudden and unexpected closure. Payment of this support will be made on or before January 14.
In addition, there is also a one-off payment to assist these businesses with the costs that they have faced upon closure, mainly staff costs but also including other expenses such as professional cleaning costs and payment of this support will be made on or before January 14.
These two payments are solely in respect of the period of December 18 to 27, 2020.
“Government’s ability to respond swiftly with these measures is primarily as a result of the mainly genuine and cooperative nature of the claims that have been submitted by catering establishments,” a spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said.
It added that it is grateful to those catering establishments who have not claimed any perishables whatsoever and met the costs themselves, as well as those that have donated their perishables to charitable and other worthwhile causes.
As this financial support package was announced, the Gibraltar Government said it was working on a separate financial support package that will be available for all businesses that were closed down from December 28, 2020 and will be announced soon.
This will apply to non-essential retail, hairdressers and beauty salons as well as catering establishments.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “I am pleased that we are able to send out this financial support within such a short time frame; barely a matter of weeks after the closure announcements.”
“People will now understand the good reasons we had for taking this action in the speed and the manner that we did, but we also recognize that catering firms were gearing up for their busiest period in the year and it is right that we should compensate them quickly for the losses that were unavoidable as a result of our decision.”
“I now look forward to finalizing the financial support that we will be offering more generally to these and the other businesses that we regrettably had to close down on December 28.”
“I can confirm that having met with CELAC this week and considered all representations made I expect to announce the new measures of financial support for January 2021 at the press conference I will give at 4pm on Friday.”

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