Hospitality industry makes its voice heard at third HospoDemo

15 November 2022 by
Hospitality industry makes its voice heard at third HospoDemo

Restaurateurs, chefs, and bartenders descended on London's Westminster for the third HospoDemo protest on Monday, urging the government to support the hospitality sector.

Industry figures from across the country, including Dorset, Kent, and Manchester, made their way to Parliament Square with their pots, pans, and wooden spoons to make as much noise as possible ahead of the Autumn Budget on Thursday.

They called on the government to provide three concessions: reduce VAT to 10%, offer a business rates holiday or reduction, and launch a visa scheme to allow overseas staff to work in hospitality.

Robin Gill, chef-restaurateur of Darby's, Bermondsey Larder, and Bottle & Rye in London, told the crowd that the government's neglect of the industry would lead to more "forced closures".

He later told The Caterer: "We're not asking for a lot here. We need all three things as the industry is on its knees. My fear is it will take the government to witness all the closures that are coming before anything is done."

Lee Forbes from the Sportsman (L) and Lucy Do from the Dodo Micropub (R)
Lee Forbes from the Sportsman (L) and Lucy Do from the Dodo Micropub (R)

Natalia Ribbe, owner of Barletta and Sète in Margate, who has worked in the industry for over 20 years, added: "Enough is enough. I'm tired of feeling like I live on the red line.

"[Hospitality is] the first thing to go when you have a recession; we won't be able to survive if we don't see some kind of support or acknowledgement from the government."

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said: "Christmas is going to camouflage how bad it is right now. When those bookings fall away in January, February, March, it's going to be a domino effect. We're going to see endless closures, so [the government] need to act now."

Oliver Eardley (pictured below right), a bartender of 10 years who currently works at Sketch in London's Mayfair, came to the protest despite having been at work at 3am "deep cleaning the fridges".

He said he had worked 75 hours a week for the past three months due to lack of staff and his main concern was "getting the EU workers back".

He said: "I am in a relationship with someone from France. We did long distance for two years and she also works in hospitality. Unfortunately, she spent €1,500 (£1,322) trying to come here six months after Brexit. She already paid and then the company itself got denied the license by the government. Since then, [the government have] put more and more rules in place."

Henal and Reena Chotai (L) and Oliver Eardley (R)
Henal and Reena Chotai (L) and Oliver Eardley (R)

Henal and Reena Chotai (pictured above left), co-owners of the Red Cup Café in Harrow, came to the protest despite it being one of their few days off.

They said: "This is too important to miss. We're here to represent small businesses. Where will you celebrate your birthday, hold your wedding, or even ask for Christmas raffle prizes [without hospitality]? No local restaurants will be left."

The second half of the protest took place outside the Treasury, where the crowd united to chant "Save our pubs! Save our pubs!".

Rachel Harty, organiser of HospoDemo, said: "What's important is the government listen to what we're asking for. Jeremy Hunt is currently inside the Treasury that we're standing outside and is hearing this noise and reading our signs."

The size of the protest itself had been impacted by the staffing crisis, which Harty felt was "at its worst right now". She said many people couldn't leave their restaurant, bar, or café to attend because they didn't have enough staff to work the hours of the demonstration.

Some couldn't even afford the train fare to London to show their support for the protest, because "businesses are so close to the bone", she said.

Harty added: "[Hospitality is] the third biggest employer in the UK and we provide £130b to the economy each year. If [the government] don't help the industry soon, there won't be any businesses to collect that VAT from and all those business interruption loans won't be paid back, so it's in the government's interest to help hospitality."

Hospo Demo at the Treasury
Hospo Demo at the Treasury

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