A Cumbrian legal firm with a speciality in working with the hospitality and tourism sector says the impact of the pandemic over the past 11 months has thrown up a range of issues for the industry, with various legal implications.

Stuart Bailey is a senior solicitor at Thomson Hayton Winkley, which has five offices and employs around 100 people in the county. He specialises in commercial property for retail, leisure and hospitality.

Stuart says, “COVID19 has had a devastating impact on the tourism trade in the Lake District, Cumbria. Although the relaxation of restrictions last summer saw a dramatic increase in levels of tourists, uncertainty remained and hospitality, tourism and retail business businesses now face further problems due to the cumulative effects of the second lockdown 2, Tier 4 and the current ‘lockdown 3’.

“Some businesses were unable able to open at all or have already gone bust, but whilst many did continue to trade when they could, it was with reduced turnover and income.

“Businesses have to incur the extra cost of complying with COVID-19 measures and some have had to reduce their supply of services to ensure safe distancing and as a result have had to lay off a number of staff. Whilst the extended furlough scheme has been a welcome lifeline, that and the various grants available may not be enough for some.

“We have certainly seen an upturn in clients seeking advice in areas such as tenancy and lease agreements, employment issues and business succession planning. It will be interesting to see what the local situation will be as we move forward into spring and summer with   hopefully – the vaccine allowing the industry to open up again.

“Most businesses have also had to bring in measures to ensure that they are COVID-secure. Despite masks and social distancing becoming the norm, there have sadly been reports of customers failing to comply and indeed there has been a noticeable increase in numbers of staff being subjected to verbal abuse.

“Recently the Supreme Court has ruled – on appeal – that a number of insurers should pay out under their disruption insurance policies, which will be a boost for some businesses. We are following this story with interest, and hope that it does bring the anticipated pay outs that might make all the difference to some.

“Despite the doom and gloom, there does seem to be positivity that we can bounce back. Visitor research carried out by Cumbria Tourism in the autumn suggests consistently high levels of guest satisfaction and an intention for people to return when it is safe to do so.

“After all, the fells, lakes and beautiful Cumbrian scenery will still be there. Whether all the shops, bars, cafes and restaurants that serve the tourists will be there too is of course another matter. But some are learning from the pandemic and adapting their business models so, there is reason to be positive.”

Thomson Hayton Winkley’s workforce includes a specialist rural team at J36 Rural Auction Centre, as well as offices in Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Windermere and Kirkby Lonsdale.

The company is also a Strategic Partner of Cumbria Tourism and can assist any tourism-related businesses with their legal needs. This includes free advice via a special phone helpline for Cumbria Tourism members.

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