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Restaurants in the North: ‘It feels like the guillotine is about to drop’

Written by on 8 October 2020

Hospitality workers and venue owners in the North of England are demanding clarity from the government after being told they might be closed down next Monday.

“It feels like the guillotine is about to drop,” said Paul Askew as he oversaw lunch service at the Art School restaurant in Liverpool.

The fine dining venue is serving a fraction of its usual customers – and like every other business, it desperately needs to know precisely what the government plan is.

“I liken it to a death by a thousand cuts at the moment,” the head chef said.

“And what’s most annoying is that we’re not being told this by the prime minister – it’s anonymous briefings to the papers – we need and deserve better leadership than this.”

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At the Lunya bar and deli in the city centre, owner Peter Kinsella has worked for the past 10 years with his wife Elaine to bring a slice of Catalonia to Liverpool.

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He tried to hold back tears as he told Sky News what was at stake: “If our business goes under, 65 staff lose their jobs and me and Elaine lose our house – and we are a successful, really, really viable business.”

As we talked, there were just a handful of customers in.

“In some ways it’s easier just to close and take a circuit breaker of a few weeks – but there has to be a support package to keep everyone afloat that comes with that kind of thing,” he said.

A three-tier lockdown system is being contemplated by the government
Image:
A three-tier lockdown system is being contemplated by the government

The Love Lane brewery supplies drinks into over 100 venues across Merseyside and head brewer Jack Walker told Sky News he had over 70,000 litres of beer that he now doesn’t know what to do with.

“We’ve got a huge dilemma with all the beer we have brewed – do we bottle it for the home market or keep putting it in kegs for pubs that might or might not be open.”

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“The absolute last thing anyone wants is to lay more people off but we are at a really challenging point.”

“If we all lose December – which is such a peak for our industry – I really worry about what happens in January when businesses traditionally suffer anyway.”

There is already a local emergency fund of GBP40m that has been established this week in the Liverpool city region for the hospitality sector but people’s anger is now directed towards national government.

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Ministers are understood to still be finalising a traffic light system plan where different areas of England with the highest infection rates would see the tightest restrictions.

Every town or city that falls into that category has business owners and employees in the hospitality sector who want to know what’s happening. They can’t afford to wait until Monday.