BUSINESSES are delighted with the Government’s coronavirus mini-budget, saying it could breathe life into the high street and stop it becoming a “ghost town”.

Firms that have furloughed staff will be given a £1,000 bonus to keep workers in jobs, diners will get a discount to support pubs and restaurants, and stamp duty is to be cut under plans to protect the economy from the coronavirus recession.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the measures as part of an emergency support package yesterday to help keep people in work as the economic crisis hits.

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He announced an “Eat Out To Help Out” plan for dining out in August, with a 50 per cent discount per head from Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum discount of £10 per diner.

He also slashed VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20 per cent to five per cent from July 15 until January 12, a tax cut worth up to £4 billion.

Business owners in Sussex are thrilled.

Pamela McKellar, who runs the Gingerman Group of restaurants – including the Ginger Pig in Hove – welcomed the bonus for furloughed staff and the measures to encourage people to eat out.

She said: “We’re delighted – this is really good news for us.

“For some restaurants, this is a case of survival. It’s not about making a profit – these measures give us a cushion to try and trade out of this and keep people employed.

“Restaurants are open and trading and paying tax – but they’re not full and it’s almost impossible to make money. This will help them keep their doors open so the high street doesn’t turn into a ghost town.”

Pamela also welcomed the Government’s scheme to give firms £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 and a new bonus of £1,500 for apprentices over that age.

She said these measures were “very, very encouraging” for young people starting out in the industry.

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Sue Addis, who owns Donatello’s restaurant in Brighton, said: “When I heard the news, I was surprised – in a good way.

“I knew there would be a VAT cut, but I thought it would be more like 17 per cent – five per cent is brilliant. With under half of your tables there, anything helps. It’s very hard now to pay your way, but this gives us a bit more optimism for the future.

“We thank Rishi Sunak for recognising the importance of the hospitality sector. This recognition will make a significant difference, as we face a long road to recovery.”

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Ali Razavi, who co-owns Halisco, a Mexican restaurant in Preston Street, Brighton, and runs pub kitchens at The Victory Inn and The Temple Bar, said: “This is massively going to help us out. Hearing this news is amazing for our industry. It’s no secret it’s been hit hard.

“And it’s really good news for pub food too. The voucher scheme is going to help businesses. This will be a boost for pubs and restaurants and help the industry get buzzing again.”

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David Toscano, who runs Cin Cin Italian restaurants in Vine Street in Brighton and Western Road, Hove, said: “It looks like great news. It’s a lot to digest. The one we were really looking out for was the VAT reduction – I’m really glad that’s in there.

“It gives us more margins to work with and will help us make it easier and more appealing for customers to return to restaurants.

“I don’t think this will result in a flood of customers coming back – many are still quite wary. But these incentives are really welcome.”

The Chancellor has warned that “hardship lies ahead” but insisted that no one will be left “without hope”.

The furlough scheme winds down in October, and Mr Sunak is hoping to avoid widespread redundancies as State support is withdrawn.

“While we can’t protect every job, one of the most important things we can do to prevent unemployment is to get as many people as possible from furlough back to their jobs,” he said.

Under the Jobs Retention Bonus, firms will be paid £1,000 for each employee they bring back from furlough and continuously employ through to January on an average of at least £520 a month.

He said: “Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.”

Addressing MPs, Mr Sunak said his plan would help protect livelihoods after the economy contracted by 25 per cent in just two months.

He said: “We have taken decisive action to protect our economy. But people are anxious about losing their jobs, about unemployment rising. We’re not just going to accept this.”