Allegrini 2018

Wine and catering: the certainty of a very hard present, many unknowns about “Phase 2”

Fipe: “this is an announced failure”. At WineNews the state of the art and the estimates (also for wine tourism) of lawyer Marco Giuri (Studio Giuri)
Wine and catering: the certainty of a very hard present

The liquidity crisis is enormous. The measures launched by the Government, such as the loans without a preliminary investigation of 25,000 euros guaranteed by the State in the first place do not work so far: an amount considered very low even for small businesses, sometimes even insufficient to pay taxes and deadlines simply extended by a couple of months, or the expenses that would be necessary to meet the health requirements to reopen activities. Loans which, however, have higher interest rates than those which companies sometimes pay with banks. Furthermore, the mortgages guaranteed by the public, of amounts over 25,000 euro, are unsustainable for most companies, because they have repayment times (6 years), according to many, decidedly too short.
Therefore, the liquidity situation of companies remains of total seriousness, the first major emergency of the coronavirus crisis, the one immediately reported, even for wineries and restaurants, as told by the testimonies of many wine producers and restaurateurs that we have heard, in these days, and as entrepreneurs of every branch of activity continue to emphasize. Such an emergency was at the beginning of the crisis, and such is still the case now that politics is discussing "Phase 2", which, in this framework, remains more uncertain than ever. The date set by the decree currently in force is 3 May, when the “lockdown” should end. Which, in any case, should see bars and restaurants among the last activities to reopen, and with a thousand limitations (from the distance of 2 meters between the tables to the use of masks and gloves to continuous sanitization activities of the premises and so on, according to the first hypothesis). With further repercussions both on the catering sector tout court and on the wine sector, given that, as we have reiterated, the HoReCa channel is a major contributor to the turnover of the wineries, especially (but not only) those of small and medium-size, which focus on high quality. The Fipe speaks of a “bankruptcy announced for catering and tourism”, with losses estimated at 30 billion euros, and a state of “deep crisis with the serious risk of seeing 50,000 companies permanently closed and 300,000 jobs lost. Confirming this, many entrepreneurs are already developing the idea of not reopening the business because the support measures for the sector are still seriously insufficient and the market conditions are uncertain to reopen. In fact - explains the Italian Federation of Public Exercise/Fipe - the interventions made by the Government are only a partial response: liquidity has not yet arrived, the 100% State guarantee for maximum amounts of 25,000 is a figure far from the actual needs of businesses to meet the countless costs to be incurred, the bureaucracy remains stifling even weighing down the same procedures as the social shock absorbers, forcing companies to advance payments. In addition, there have been no cancellations of taxes, but only a deferment, moreover, with the mockery of having to risk paying for the occupation of public land by being forced to close down, and the tax on “virtual waste” since no waste has been produced”.
“With the reopening of the country - declares the president of Fipe/Confcommercio, Lino Stoppani - Italians risk no longer finding the bar under their house or the trattoria in the neighborhood open. For this reason, we are asking the government and politicians for more help and an extra effort to save a piece of our production system which, with 85 billion in turnover and 1.2 million employees, is a leading sector of tourism and the country's economy”. And the requests to the Government and politics to be put in place urgently, are the same from the beginning of the crisis: real non-repayable resources for the companies parameterized to the loss of turnover moratorium on rents, cancellation of taxation such as Imu, Tari, rent of public land and other taxes until the end of the crisis period and suspension of payment of utilities, the extension of the social shock absorbers until the end of the pandemic and tax relief for those who will maintain employment levels, the reintroduction of vouchers for the payment of ancillary work, the possibility of working for take-away, as is the case throughout Europe, the granting of larger outdoor spaces during the period of living with the virus, to encourage social distancing and allow businesses to work, and a reopening plan with certain times and methods shared with operators of the sector, to allow all businesses to operate safely.
Certainly, the hypotheses of a “Phase 2” in different times and ways between Region and Region, as we learn in these days, does not facilitate the framework in which to move. To help us better understand who can keep open and work, but also who will be able to start doing so again when “Phase 2” begins is the lawyer Marco Giuri of the Studio Giuri in Florence.
“New Ateco codes have been introduced, linked to essential activities, linked to the Presidential Decree of 10 April 2020, which repealed all the others. For our sector - explains to WineNews - agricultural activities, the part of the agro-food industries, those who manufacture and sell phytosanitary products, professional activities such as that of oenologists, remain open, even if it does not make much sense since there are no customers, the hotel business. Then there are those activities that are functional to the essential ones, such as those who produce bottles and corks, who can continue to work as long as they make a prior communication to the Prefect, and if there's no answer, silence is worth it. Even if from what I have collected, there are no answers, and therefore denials, even for the number of advanced communications. In any case, if he thinks so, the Prefect, having heard the President of the Region, can suspend the activity. Another thing to underline is that the decree of April 10, 2020, has also granted some activity to those who must remain closed. Therefore, access to the company premises is allowed for ordinary management, for payments, maintenance, shipping, and receipt of goods, but always with the communication to the Prefect”.
On catering, as we have seen, only those who have a home delivery license can work, and on this, as pointed out by Fipe, nothing has changed. Therefore, we look to the future. “Documents are circulating that look to “Phase 2,” but you have to understand what the government will do. The fact is that it would be possible for restaurants to restart guaranteeing health protection measures, which are the same as the commercial activities open today. Therefore, the compliance of the health protocol of 14 March 2020, which is strict but quite easily applicable both for restaurants and, for example, for wine tourism, which could, with certain precautions, restart”. With an obvious consideration, but to be reiterated, that people can move again, not be afraid to do so, and that, not secondary, the economic conditions allow it.
In any case, even in the best case, the rules must be respected, “such as distances of at least one meter between people, staggered entrances, use of masks and disinfectants, separate entrance and exit routes, and so on. All these provisions are in Annex 5 of the Decree of 10 April 2020. But I would add: there is an interesting document that I found in the publications of the Oms, which to date we do not talk about much. On March 31, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines for hotel and tourism facilities, where it talks about hospitality and hospitality in general, and perhaps they could be adopted for catering and wine tourism in “Phase 2”, could be a bit of a guiding light to which the legislator will also look. Guidelines that are, often, less restrictive than the rules already put in place. For catering, for example, one meter between tables is foreseen, and in any case the presence of up to 4 people per 10 square meters.
Under these conditions, I imagine, for example, that, for wine companies, some wine tourism activities could easily be resumed, considering that we are also heading towards the summer season. If I think about a visit in the countryside and the vineyard, there is no lack of space, as well as in the winery, for a tasting, clearly guaranteeing all the sanitizing activities. It remains clear that even in “Phase 2” there will be some measures to follow, perhaps for the restaurant more restrictive than for others, but let's also look at these Oms guidelines that I think will be those looked at by the legislator. Always taking into account that then the Regions will be able to derogate, in a more stringent way, from what will be the national legislation”.
But if these are the hypotheses on what will come tomorrow, the certainty, unfortunately, is that the present is very hard and that the measures put in place so far for companies, to date, do not work.
“The sentiment is pessimistic - Giuri confirms - and touching with hand also credit institutions with which we work, it emerges that, for example, to supply loans guaranteed by the State, the banks would be ready, while the institutions that provide the public guarantee, namely the Guarantee Fund, and the Sace, have not yet adapted, at least on Friday, April 17, their portals, to access the service. The problem, then, remains the time, which remains long, even when the procedures will be active. Speaking with entrepreneurs, the planned loan (up to 25,000 euros without a preliminary investigation, ed. ndr) remains an operation that has a cost, and often companies that have good relations with credit institutions often manage to come up with better management costs and interest rates than those provided for in the “Dl Liquidity”, and therefore there is great uncertainty, as well as the constatation of an unbelievable bureaucracy”.

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