‘We’ve seen 11,000 guests come through our gates and we’ve not had one Covid related case here’

The Staff Canteen

With the news that Lancashire will follow Liverpool into Tier 3 restrictions from midnight and London facing a ban on households mixing in any indoor space under Tier 2, the hospitality industry is pulling its hair out.

With warning of 200,000 hospitality job losses in London this weekend the sector is once again being squeezed and feels there is a lack of support.

“The only thing which will make us close is no guests,” said Mark Birchall, chef owner of two Michelin-starred Restaurant Moor Hall. Based in Lancashire he said he had ‘a few choice words’ when asked for a quote on the new restrictions.

“Since we opened in July, we’ve had an amazing time, we’ve been so busy and so successful – even the curfew didn’t affect us.”

Tom Kerridge is juggling establishments in covid hotspots in Manchester and London, he said: “It’s absolutely devastating and there’s nothing you can do about it. We feel so helpless. We feel like an industry which is being shut down and neglected and the last thing you want to do is upset a load of chefs!”

Mark recognises that the covid cases across Lancashire ‘are quite high’ but feels let down by the fact not enough has been done to police the ‘non secure covid places’.

“If people aren’t playing by the rules they should be punished on a local level with licensing, places like here [Moor Hall] have done a great job of making people feel comfortable and safe and we’re being punished.”

He says this week there have been 30 cancellations, but they have picked them back up, ‘at the minute it hasn’t affected us, but I know it will’.

People are advised not to travel in out of Lancashire under tier 3 restrictions so Mark says, ‘we’ll have to see’. He intends to keep going, adding incentives and offers to keep guests coming back.

“Once you walk through those gates, you’re in a bubble. We’ve seen circa 11,000 guests come through those gates and we’ve not had one covid related case here."

He added: “It does feel unfair.”

Tom feels like ‘the hospitality industry is being suffocated’ and said: “It’s being shut down by stealth. You’re being told you are allowed to open but there’s no support system there. Whatever they say a furlough scheme of 67 percent is not 80 percent – it’s another devaluing of our workforce, which is hugely underappreciated, and I find completely disrespectful.

“If you’re on minimum wage you’ll struggle to make ends meet particularly in the centre of London – having your wages cut is not a support system.

“It’s very worrying and there will be huge catastrophic losses unless the government does something to help this industry survive.

“As soon as customers don’t feel confident about going out it strangles the industry – the government need to get an understanding, and very rapidly, of how this industry is being affected and what a devastating loss it would be to the country if on the other side many of our great restaurants are not there.”

Given the opportunity to voice his concerns to the government Mark says ‘the virus isn’t going anywhere and we need to learn to live with it’.

He says he would ask ‘why haven’t we clamped down on the places which aren’t playing ball?’.

“The ones who are doing it well and being responsible they should be rewarded, and they should be open with no restrictions. All this shouting for financial support, the focus should be keeping places open not what financial support is on offer for when they close." 

Talking about Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who is currently refusing to accept tier three restrictions, Mark says ‘it’s fantastic’, adding: “He’s stamping his feet, he’s getting more money – we’ve not heard anything from ours through this whole pandemic, can you tell me who the conservative MP for Lancashire is?

“The reality is the virus is going no where and I think we are doing a fantastic job of keeping Moor Hall covid secure.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th October 2020

‘We’ve seen 11,000 guests come through our gates and we’ve not had one Covid related case here’