INSURERS have been accused of an “unacceptable” refusal to pay out to hospitality businesses which were forced to close because of the coronavirus.

Trevor Ayling, who owns Renoufs Cheese and Wine Bar in Lyndhurst, is part of a national campaign to get more insurance companies to pay out.

The Hospitality Insurance Group Action is representing businesses who say their insurance companies are stonewalling or turning down claims.

The law firm Mishcon de Reya is advising the group on a collective action which campaigners say could run into tens of millions of pounds.

Trevor Ayling, whose Renoufs Cheese and Wine Bars are in the New Forest an in Dorset, said: “Like most people, we’ve been hit hard by the realities of the Covid-19 lock-down.

“On March 20, this year, we were told by the government to close our doors indefinitely, with immediate effect, on an otherwise fully-booked evening.

“In light of these difficult circumstances, we have decided to claim on our insurance policy and have tried every which way to get our insurer to respond – to no avail.

“This is simply unacceptable.

“What is the point of business interruption insurance, when your insurer refuses to respond or even acknowledge any claim?

“We’re a family-run, local independent group of award-winning restaurants and feel a huge sense of duty to our community and loyal customers; we want to be able to reopen for them as much as for our staff and family, as soon as restrictions ease.

“A payout on our policy would go some way to making that a reality and to secure the future of Renoufs.”

The Association of British Insurers has said : “No country in the world is able to provide widespread pandemic insurance, and the UK is no exception.

“For this type of cover to be available and affordable, would require a very significant subsidy from the government.”

It said its members were expecting to pay more than £1.2billion in claims related to the pandemic.

It added that policies covering infectious diseases normally only applied when the disease was present on the premises, which then needed to be closed and cleaned before the business could carry on trading.