Liverpool hospitality sector makes desperate plea for help

More than 100 Liverpool restaurants, bars and hotels say their businesses are ‘hanging by a thread’ as the coronavirus lockdown keeps doors closed. Tony McDonough reports

Paul Askew
Chef and owner of The Arts School Restaurant, Paul Askew

 

More than 100 Liverpool hospitality businesses have written a joint letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak pleading with him to save their livelihoods.

The coronavirus epidemic and subsequent lockdown has sent shockwaves across the entire economy and the restaurant, bar and hotel sector is among the hardest hit with many businesses now fighting for survival.

While the Chancellor has introduced a number of measures including Government-backed loans, grants of up to £25,000 and a worker furlough scheme, the members of the Liverpool Hospitality Association (LHA) say it is nowhere near enough.

LHA is made up of some of the city’s most well-known businesses including the Arts School Restaurant, Graffiti Spirits Group, Maray, Red and Blue Restaurants, Paul Moran of Living Ventures and many others.

Chaired by chef and owner of The Arts School Restaurant, Paul Askew, the LHA details how the Coronavirus pandemic is leaving the city’s hospitality businesses “in a position that they may not survive”.

Lockdown and social distancing measures have seen the nation’s hospitality sector either completely closed or with tough restrictions, and the LHA highlights that the industry will be one of the last to reopen and when it does it will still be ‘heavily influenced by the social distancing mandate’.

Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a number of business support packages

 

Its letter to the Chancellor, LHA details how hopes of Liverpool’s businesses “now hang in tatters” and how so many local people have “grafted for years, fighting for survival” and how “begging does not come easily… Yet here we are on bended knee.”

The letter asks for support in the following:

  • #NationalTimeOut initiative supporting rent payments to landlords for a nine-month period without being added to the end of the lease.
  • #RasieTheBar initiative – raising the current £51,000 threshold to £151,000 for business rate grants, a campaign also backed by the Liverpool BID Company.
  • Furlough Pay Review – a review of measures for the hospitality sector considering the expected long-term timescales for recovery.
  • Directors of limited companies be in line with self-employed – allowing dividends to be considered via company records, not just basic PAYE pay.
  • VAT reduction – a reduction in VAT for all visitor economy sector to 10% for a minimum 12 month period.
  • Insurance companies held accountable (many hospitality businesses have been advised they’re not covered as COVID-19 isn’t mentioned in their policies).
  • CBILS movement on 100% Government back up to £100,000 (many have been unable to be accepted due to new venues, small profits, past history or future concern of longevity in the environment).

Paul Askew said: “COVID-19 has created unprecedented circumstances for all, and for the hospitality industry, there are extraordinarily uncertain times ahead. We’ll be one of the last sectors to reopen and even then, our new normal will be a stark contrast to the busy and bustling venues we’re used to.

“Liverpool’s hospitality sector has a visitor economy worth £4.9bn and we provide over 57,000 jobs and to ensure that collectively this is possible moving forward, we’ll need long-term support from the Government.”

Matt Farrell, co-founder of Graffiti Spirits Group, added: “Hospitality businesses are ‘cultural banks’, and as with many other services, are there for the community as much as they are for the business owners. They will need ongoing help and support to be there when society is ready. Supporting and following this cause is categorically the only way to help survival.”

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