Next Monday, hundreds of members of the hospitality industry will gather on Parliament Square to bang pots, pans, cocktail shakers and last-orders bells, to create a hospitality cacophony directed towards the Houses of Parliament. Since the start of this grisly pandemic, my industry has been badly let down by the government. We are consequently in the very last chance saloon and must make the government change its course.
The new tier system which comes into effect tomorrow will lead to the demise of thousands more hospitality businesses who are unable to trade profitably, if at all, given the latest restrictions.
The industry feels betrayed, having done all that was asked, including investing millions to make businesses “Covid secure’” as per government guidelines. Now, despite having the harshest restrictions imposed, hospitality has not received any additional government support. While the retail sector will be given desperately-needed new powers to open 24 hours a day, hospitality has been robbed of crucial Christmas trading that contributes up to 40 per cent of a business’s annual profits.
To add insult to injury, a policy document published by the Cabinet Office last week contained a raft of irrelevant data from Japan, China, Indonesia, South Korea and USA, which contradicts the week-by-week data released by Public Health England throughout the pandemic. This bizarre propaganda piece has clearly been designed to support the government’s attack on the hospitality industry, when the data from our very own Public Health England doesn’t.
Financial support specifically geared towards hospitality is needed for the UK’s third biggest employer in order to save thousands of businesses and up to a million jobs. While the furlough scheme has been of some help, in reality most hospitality employees have only been able to claim a small proportion of their normal earnings, because furlough doesn’t take TRONC into account – the tips that can make up to 80 per cent of an employee’s earnings, and upon which they pay tax.
As well as giving sector-specific support to hospitality’s 3.2million-strong workforce – for example by taking into account TRONC – the government must urgently assist business owners to enable them to ride this storm. Many operators have amassed hundreds of thousands of pounds of rent debt since March. The government needs to agree a system of rent relief, otherwise a slew of insolvencies will ensue in the coming months, resulting in a major unemployment crisis.
This bizarre propaganda piece has clearly been designed to support the government’s attack on the hospitality industry, when the data from our very own Public Health England doesn’t
Pubs, restaurants and bars are the lifeblood of communities and part of the fabric of Britain’s society and culture. What’s more, as a recent SAGE report found, socialising in a pub, bar or restaurant that adheres to COVID guidelines is safer than socialising at home. I sincerely hope that Monday’s protest will lead to fewer restrictions and enhanced support for hospitality. Otherwise, when the time comes to celebrate the end of the pandemic, our cherished pubs, restaurants and bars won’t have survived.
Written by Rachel Harty, founder of HospoDemo, hospodemo.org