A group of esteemed restaurant chiefs have written to the government calling for taxes on wine to be cut to ease pressure on the hospitality sector.
The bosses, who are working with campaign group Wine Drinkers UK, have said excessive taxation has driven up prices and seen on-trade wine sales fall by £146m or 4.5% in the last year, more than any other type of alcohol.
Signatories to the letter, sent to exchequer secretary Simon Clark, include: Mark Quick, wine director of the Hawksmoor Group; Richard Bigg, managing director of Camino; Razak Helalat, director of the Coal Shed and the Salt Room; Jeremy King, chief executive of Corbin & King; Charlie Young, director of Vinoteca; and Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Bar Co.
It read: "Duty on wine has increased significantly more than on spirits and beer over recent years – by 12% since the government's welcome decision to scrap the duty escalator in 2014, compared to 2% for spirits and a decrease of 0.2% for beer. In fact, the last time wine received a cut to duty was 35 years ago under chancellor Nigel Lawson.
"From our perspective, unfair duty on wine is adding to the many other pressures on the hospitality industry at present. Continual hikes to wine duty are making it more expensive for consumers, and indeed for some prohibitive, to enjoy wine in restaurants and bars."
The signatories said the fall in wine sales was putting businesses across hospitality at risk of failure, with knock on effects for their employees and supply chains.
The letter continued: "We urge you to address this imbalance at the next budget. Cutting wine duty will not only benefit consumers and the wine industry but will also provide a much-needed lifeline to the UK's struggling hospitality sector."
Chancellor Sajid Javid today set 11 March as the date for his first budget.