Christmas at the Curlew was far from expected, with a loss of about 40% of bookings and trade dropping by 50% of the usual monthly £50,000 to £60,000 turnover. The situation, said Devlin, was “pretty dire”.
“We really haven't had a Christmas for a couple years,” he said. “Last year, it was fine; there was a furlough scheme. There is no furlough now, and it feels like we’ve been left hung out to dry with no support and no direction: the grants the Government is giving, don't even touch the sides”.
“They’re creating a lockdown society without actually telling people to lock down, which means we don't have a leg to stand on. Then, when we ask for support, they’ll be like: ‘What are you talking about? You can still carry on trading, we’ve not shut you down; we’ve not told people not to come out to you’, but they have said that subliminally and cleverly".
First to suffer
He continued: “The hospitality industry is always the first one to suffer. People are still going to supermarkets, people are still going out shopping and buying clothes, and we've just been left as an afterthought. If you think about how much revenue through tax the hospitality industry brings to the Government and the amount of employment it brings to the country, is a huge amount.
“What you're going to find probably is lots of businesses, over the next few months, are going to start struggling and will be forced to close”.
For Devlin, the Government’s support measures had been of little help. He said: “The purpose of the reduction of VAT on food and reduction of business rates for a period of time was so things could progress and so you can actually earn a bit of money and have that money in the bank, so you can be profitable and make up for all that lost time when we were shut".
Each to their own
Devlin added: “The problem is, when the government dropped the food VAT rate to 5%, that was great. They did that for a little bit, but guess what? One of my businesses was then shut November, December, January, February, March and April, where there was an opportunity or 5% of VAT sales on food.
“In the six whole months when I was forced to shut, that was not extended. Then, we were able to run with that until October when it went back up to 12.5% VAT on food”.
Devlin said the whole point of offering a reduced VAT rate was to help businesses recoup lost earnings from the first part of the pandemic in 2020. However, he said, “we just went and lost that again”.
He added: “There needs to be more support from the Government. However, I don't think they've got anything left to offer, and it's going to be ‘each to their own’ from now on”.