On Monday morning at 10.30am, members of the hospitality industry will march on Westminster to carry out a peaceful protest urging the government to revise its policies relating to hospitality venues.
FEJ will be there to lend its support to this campaign, although I fear anything the hospitality industry does at the moment to draw attention to its plight will fall on deaf ears among those running the country.
The industry has done everything in its power to safely reopen premises, spending millions on PPE and training to be able to serve customers in line with regulations. But in return the hoops it has had to jump through appear to get bigger and more preposterous with every week that passes.
Industry trade body UK Hospitality has lobbied hard against some of the more ludicrous and damaging decisions – the 10pm curfew being the stand-out one – but No.10 shows no signs of reneging.
Its CEO Kate Nicholls has appeared on TV, radio and in newspapers to highlight the devastation faced by the sector – and the tone of her organisation has gradually shifted from frustration to contempt as the pandemic.
I can only agree with her latest comments following the introduction of the government’s new Tier system for Covid this week.
Like Manchester, tomorrow will see London become the latest major city to move into Tier 2. Restaurant businesses, especially, will be caught between a rock and a hard place. They’ll face severe restrictions such as no mixing of households which will dramatically hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in Tier 3.
To coin a phrase that Nicholls herself used, it’s “the worst of both worlds”.
Restaurants hit hardest by this predicament are effectively left in limbo unless the government does what many in the industry think is the only practical solution, which is remove employer contributions from the Job Support Scheme for hospitality or apply Tier 3 job support to Tier 2 businesses.
If not, there is no telling how many more unnecessary failures there will be to add to the 25,000 premises that have already been lost since March.
To end on a lighter note, I had to raise a smile at the wit shown by one operator in the face of adversity this week.
With those under a Tier 3 lockdown told they can only stay open if they serve “substantial meals”, a pub in the Liverpool area reportedly had a sign outside its premises saying: ‘Soup of the Day: Carlsberg – £2.80’.
There’s nothing like showing a bit of initiative.