Members of the London and UK hospitality industry are staging a protest on Parliament Square, urging the government to revise its policies relating to hospitality venues.
Reporter Poppy Wood is down in Westminster: follow live updates and responses here.
Update 11:50 Chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton tells City A.M. that “what Boris Johnson has done to the sector is criminal”.
“I just think it’s just unbelievable what’s happened to our country, from where we were a year ago to where we are today,” he says.
“I genuinely believe that we were one of the greatest nations on Earth, with London being one of the best capitals in the world. And we’re in chaos. We’re in total chaos.”
Atherton, who owns Michelin star London restaurant Pollen Street Social, adds the industry is “absolutely furious” at the lack of government support for the sector ahead of further restrictions.
“Let’s not forget [ministers] have given us government loans — which have got to be paid back. But that’s got us through the first wave, now we’re talking about getting through the next 18 months to two years.”
“I think hospitality is needed even more now than ever. And actually it is one of the biggest industries in the UK… It’s just unbelievable what the government’s doing to us.”
Update 11.30 Chefs, waiters, waitresses, pub landlords, farmers and caterers have been banging their pots and pans for more than half an hour in Parliament Square making their calls for further government support heard across Westminster.
More than 25,000 UK hospitality venues have already buckled under the weight of the pandemic, with industry figures warning that hundreds of thousands of redundancies linger on the horizon as further restrictions sweep the country.
Update 10:50 – Rachel Harty, organiser of the protest, tells City A.M that the government should “if necessary close places down and provide the necessary support those businesses need rather than forcing them to stay open without any help”.
“The hospitality industry has been incredibly cooperative, in doing everything the government’s asked them to do by creating these highly controlled environments,” she adds, noting new restrictions [such as] social distancing between tables, the 10pm curfew and a ban on mixing between households indoors.
“A lot of places are stuck in limbo right now, and they need to either be able to stay open with the previous restrictions or they should be closed down and given financial support.”
Harty adds that fresh restrictions imposed on the capital over the weekend mean London’s hospitality industry will be particularly damaged by a second wave of coronavirus.
“London is in this sort of no man’s land right now,” she says, adding that chancellor Rishi Sunak’s suggestion that staff in jobs considered unviable during the pandemic should retrain is “horrifying”.
“I just think it’s nonsensical. The hospitality industry is one of the best things about this country and brings millions of tourists every single year,” she says.
“Today we’re urging [the government] to base policy on facts and science. Things like the 10pm curfew seem completely arbitrary and will wipe out a whole sector”.
Update 10:24 – “We are here to demonstrate and demand more support for hospitality” explains Jan Konetzki, sommelier at Four Seasons.
Update 10:11 – as protesters and media make their way down to Parliament Square, London mayor Sadiq Khan just released this statement:
“I support those from across our hospitality sector protesting today deeply anxious about their future.
“The huge failures in the test and trace system have meant that further COVID restrictions are now necessary, but our bars, restaurants and other venues must now get the extra financial support they need urgently to stay afloat.Sadiq Khan
“The 80 per cent furlough scheme was a lifeline for many businesses at the start of the pandemic, and it is this level of support London’s hospitality sector now needs to prevent further widespread unemployment and ensure this world-leading sector can return to business when the virus is under control.”
“Until the government gets a grip on this virus, ministers have an obligation to give businesses the support they need to survive while restrictions remain in place.”