PUBS, restaurants and hair salons have been warned not to hike their prices up after lockdown is eased.
Businesses across the UK plan to reopen again from July 4 but strict social distancing rules will mean decreased capacity and less potential customers.
Pubs and restaurants will only be able to operate at 70 per cent of their normal capacity.
As a result, a quarter of restaurants say they intend to put their prices up to make up for lost revenue under the new Covid-secure rules, according to a poll as quoted by The Telegraph.
Similarly, pubs say they will have to charge more to stay afloat because they will need to hire extra staff to manage the new distancing guidelines and provide table service after ordering at the bar was banned under Government guidance.
Tom Stainer, chief executive of consumer group Campaign for Real Ale, said he was aware of pubs looking at hiring door staff to police queues and “greeters” to help people social distance once inside.
He added: “At a time when pub revenues are down because there are fewer customers through the door and costs have gone up it might be that pubs can only make it work by raising prices.
“I would hope that pubs can avoid this or only raise prices a little, but we understand they may have to just to remain viable.”
A poll of 438 restaurants carried out by MCA Insight found that 26 per cent of businesses plan to raise drinks prices when they reopen on July 4 and 22 per cent plan to raise food prices.
Even hairdressers say they could be increasing the cost of services because of extra costs they will incur by supplying staff with personal protective equipment, the trade body for hair salons said.
Under new laws, all hairdressers will be required to wear full-face plastic visors to reduce the risk of infection.
The National Hair and Beauty Federation said some salons will need to factor in extra costs related to safety precautions, including face visors, disposable gowns, and sanitising chairs between appointments.
A spokesman said: “Obviously, salons need to charge enough to cover their costs and make a profit, otherwise it’s not a viable business.”
‘STAMP IT OUT’
But ministers say the businesses have already been given billions of taxpayer pounds and they will be closely monitoring prices to make sure they engage in “price gouging”.
Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi said: “We have said we will monitor any bad behaviour in terms of price gouging and we will keep a very close eye on that and take action.
“That is not something businesses should be contemplating. We will stamp it out.
“If pubs or salons put their prices up consumers will vote with their feet. We have given over £10bn in grants to small businesses and £28bn in the bounce back loan scheme, and so there has been a lot of support from the taxpayer.
“There is also the VAT deferral, the business rates holiday, so the taxpayer has given them enormous support.”
Another minister said: “It’s about getting the balance right. Businesses need to be able to get back into profit but I think some taxpayers would be disappointed if they saw prices going up after they have funded bailouts.”
The news comes as Downing Street announced that police could have the power to go into pubs and fine drinkers in England if they see “large and irresponsible” gatherings.
No 10 also told landlords it will be easy to trace new outbreaks back to them if they fail to apply social distancing rules.
A spokesman said if businesses fail to follow health and safety regulations, local authorities will have powers to temporarily shutter them or impose unlimited fines, adding there is also the possibility of jail sentences.
Pub owners could face up to two years in jail for failing to keep thirsty customers safe in their locals.