Restaurants are predicting a 41% drop in revenue in the crucial last quarter of the year, according to a survey of the hospitality sector by consultancy firm Crowe. 

However the survey was conducted before the entire country was moved to Level 3 of the Government's Covid-19 framework, meaning that the actual outcome could be even worse. 

"If we take three weeks of further closure to in-house dining, that figure would go from 41% up to 60% of the quarter, as many businesses will be down to at least 90% for that period," said Aiden Murphy, partner with Crowe Ireland. 

According to the survey more than a third of respondents said they had taken a payment break with their bank in order to deal with cash flow issues.

Many had also taken on additional debt. Almost two thirds also said they could run out of cash in the next three months unless they avail of additional loan facilities. 

The liquidity of restaurants could become a particular issue in the coming months, as the end-of-year period is usually when firms build up a reserve of cash to see them through the quiet first quarter. 

"The sector normally has a buffer of cash going into quarter one and quarter two coming from the Christmas trade and corporate events, none of which will happen to the same level this year," Mr Murphy said. 

"Therefore their cash-flows will be under severe pressure if they aren't given more supports, and if the supports that are currently in place aren't extended further," he said. 

The report says the Government's wages subsidy scheme had gone some way to helping firms to stay afloat in recent months, but it needed to be extended to the end of 2021 at the very least. 

Restaurants were also unanimous in their call for a cut to the VAT rate, though there was a split in opinion over whether the rate should go to 9% or 5%. 

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"What you're seeing is a marketplace where 46% of their turnover was derived from international tourists," Aiden Murphy said. 

"What the tourism bodies are saying is that numbers will be down at least 60% next year, therefore the restaurant and food outlet sector are becoming entirely dependent on the domestic market," he said. 

"There’s going to be a need for a value proposition, there's going to be a need to get families out dining again, and a reduction in VAT from 13.5% to 9% or 5% would greatly add to their ability to bring these prices down," he added. 

Another measure the report called for was an extension of the Revenue scheme that allows companies to pay their taxes owed for this year at a later date. 

"The warehousing scheme has been very beneficial, whereby taxes can be deferred from 2020 into 2021 or 2022," he said. 

"That scheme was introduced to cover taxes up to the end of August, because there were restrictions up to the end of June," he added. 

He said that now that we have restrictions covering October, that scheme should be extended to the end of October, allowing businesses to defer their VAT and payroll taxes from September and October, and pay these in 2022 - and have the benefit of their cash flow within their businesses now. 

"That would be a huge boost to these businesses," Mr Murphy said. 

Meanwhile, Ibec has said the current Covid-19 restrictions are disproportionately targeting the country's tourism and hospitality sectors and their diverse supply chains. 

The business group claims that Ireland's containment measures remain "exceptionally stringent" compared to other EU countries, especially for the so-called "experience sector".

Ibec has urged NPHET to publish the data that is underpinning the recommendation to close the Irish tourism and hospitality sectors. 

Ibec's Director of Member Services, Sharon Higgins, said the experience economy underpins both the economic and social fabric of the country. 

Ms Higgins noted that the sector contributes €4.5 billion in wages, salaries and employment taxes every year and one in every five private sector jobs are either employed directly or supported directly by demand from the sector.

She said that tourism and hospitality businesses have proven over the past number of months that they can operate in a highly controlled, safe environment. 

While the industry understands that the need for phased restrictions may arise, she said that giving only 24 hours-notice of such increased restrictions has potentially devastating cost implications for managing perishable stock and workforce planning, along with financial and psychological hardship for employees and employers alike. 

Ibec said that in the short-term, Budget 2021 must deliver financial support for those businesses in the experience economy who are struggling to stay afloat.

This includes targeted financial support to specifically compensate for the losses associated with perishable products going off as a result of last-minute Government lockdown restrictions/closure notices; reductions in VAT and excise rates, extending waivers on commercial rates and embracing innovative sustainability.

"As well as financial supports, communication between stakeholders in the sector is critical and this has been extremely poor to date," Sharon Higgins said.