Hospitality representatives are demonstrating in Parliament Square, London, this morning to raise awareness of the bleak winter facing many pubs and restaurants without urgent support.
Protest organiser and sector marketer Rachel Harty is urging policymakers to intervene to save jobs, with trade body UKHospitality suggesting that more than 750,000 jobs could be lost in the coming months.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has thrown his support behind the demonstration and said: “I support those from across our hospitality sector protesting today deeply anxious about their future.”
More support was needed to prevent permanent closures for businesses in areas with heavy restrictions, including London, which now faces a household mixing ban, the Mayor said.
Khan added: “The huge failures in the Test and Trace system have meant that further Covid restrictions are now necessary, but our bars, restaurants and other venues must now get the extra financial support they need urgently to stay afloat.
“The 80% furlough scheme was a lifeline for many businesses at the start of the pandemic, and it is this level of support London’s hospitality sector now needs to prevent further widespread unemployment and ensure this world-leading sector can return to business when the virus is under control.
“Until the Government gets a grip on this virus, ministers have an obligation to give businesses the support they need to survive while restrictions remain in place.”
Those attending the protest have been instructed to wear face coverings and socially distance from others.
They are wearing uniform and making noise with pots, pans, cocktail shakers and wooden spoons.
Industry heavyweights such as chefs Sally Abé, Jason Atherton and Tom Aikens are in attendance, as is The Morning Advertiser's editor Ed Bedington.
Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton told The Morning Advertiser: "It's important to let them know we are not just going to roll over and be used and abused. What I mean by that is [they] take all our tax money and we don't have a voice. We have a very strong voice.
"People will only realise how much they miss us if our industry goes into complete collapse."
Founder of restaurant group Drake & Morgan Jillian MacLean said: "A road to recovery is going to be a long road to recovery and we urgently need further Government support."
She also wants to see the creation of a business taskforce for the hospitality sector to work with the Government.
"We have probably been more legislated than any other sector across UK business and we need urgent help from the Government. We need to be listened to.
"We'd rather, on a Monday morning, be in our businesses, looking after customers - but the time has now come, we have to stand together."
Yotam Ottolenghi also attended the protest and said without Government help most restaurants would not be able to cope with the new set of restrictions in London.
He said: "Thousands and thousands of jobs are going to be lost if they don't support us. Tier 2 restrictions allow them to shrug the responsibility of actually supporting us with another furlough [scheme]."
Organiser Rachel Harty said: “The blows that have been dealt to the UK hospitality industry over the last six months have caused a great deal of frustration and hardship.
"Hospitality outlets have responded by investing heavily in safety measures to enable staff to return to work, and to encourage customers back through the door.
"However, the recent 10pm curfew and increasing local lockdowns have created an existential threat to a large proportion of hospitality businesses.”
She added: “It's time for strong government action to prevent the loss of more businesses and jobs and protect a sector that is part of the fabric of this country.”
Hospitality workers at the demonstration have been urging the Government to "stop starving" the sector.https://twitter.com/sarahbb1/status/1318128736026447875