'All I can say is, two days later Rishi Sunak increased financial support to the hospitality sector'

The  Staff Canteen

On 7th December, the Hospo Demo movement will meet in front of the Houses of Parliament once more to raise the alarm bells on behalf of the hospitality industry.

The organisation is led by Rachel Harty, a  hospitality veteran, co-founder of the PX+ festival and of hospitality members' group, TRADE. 

An advocate of the campaign for a hospitality minister, Rachel explained that she founded the movement "as a response to the terrifying situation so many hospitality businesses, and ancillary businesses that support them - including freelancers like me - have been faced with this year."

Its aim, she said, "is for the movement to demonstrate the huge issues the industry is facing, so the government takes a more nuanced approach to the restrictions imposed on businesses, and give sector-specific financial support to stop thousands of businesses going under, and up to a million employees losing their livelihoods." 

Thrown under the bus

After months of complying with government guidelines, investing millions to make their businesses safe, she said, "the industry feels betrayed."

Given that the retail sector has now been given the all-clear to open 24-hours a day, in contrast, hospitality "has been robbed of crucial Christmas trading that contributes up to 40 percent of a business' annual profits." 

"To add insult to injury," she continued, a policy document published by the Cabinet Office last week defending its stance on hospitality closures contained a raft of irrelevant data from Japan, China, Indonesia, South Korea and the USA, which, she said, "contradicts the week-by-week data released by Public Health England throughout the pandemic." 

"This bizarre propaganda piece has clearly been designed to support the government’s attack on the hospitality industry, when the data from our very own Public Health England, doesn’t." 

Tailored support

Whilst it was obvious that hospitality businesses should close during the first lockdown, she argued, everything since has struck the industry has been disproportionate to the risk, and wasn't accompanied by the right support. 

The industry vet wants there to be financial support "specifically geared towards hospitality" in order to save thousands of businesses and up to a million jobs. 

"There should have been a commitment to regular reviews of Public Health England data relating to specific sectors of the hospitality industry," she said, with targeted policies for different types of businesses.

Additionally, she said, the industry needs "a guaranteed Job Support Scheme for Tier 2 and 3 areas until restrictions are lifted, as well as an enhanced Job Support Scheme for those whose earnings are normally topped up with tips."

Furthermore, she said, the sector needs an extension of the business rates holiday and VAT relief for an additional year, and a solution to the ongoing rent problem, failing which "a slew of insolvencies will ensue in the coming months, resulting in a major unemployment crisis."

7th December

At the demonstration next week, Rachel expects a high turnout, especially from wet-led businesses who have been worst hit by the new tier system.

"Frustrations are really starting to boil over," she said, "and many people are in a desperate situation." 

"They want to vent their frustrations with others in the same position as them, and let the government know how they feel." 

As for any criticism of the movement on the grounds that it might be unsafe to gather, or that the industry is better off getting its head down and ploughing on, she said: 

"From the outset, I made it clear that every protestor needed to be responsible in terms of social distancing and wearing masks - to ensure the industry’s reputation wasn’t brought into disrepute – and this was adhered to."

She called claims that those attending have done nothing other than complain about restrictions "insulting" to "the thousands of businesses that have worked day and night trying every conceivable kind of ‘pivot’ to stay afloat." 

As for criticism that the movement is somehow London-centric, she said that she's been in contact with stakeholders in Liverpool and Manchester to organise satellite events there, too.

"We were in contact with industry leaders from around the country to make sure the first demo was as inclusive as possible to the entire country, hence why we had groups posting videos of themselves on the HospoDemo social accounts banging pots in businesses all over the country."

Finally, rebutting claims that the demonstration didn't achieve anything, she said: "All I can say is two days later Rishi Sunak increased financial support to the hospitality sector, and we were told anecdotally that this was in part due to the first protest. I guess you can’t please everyone though!"

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd December 2020

'All I can say is, two days later Rishi Sunak increased financial support to the hospitality sector'