Yotam Ottolenghi: "Ironically, I’m begging to be shutdown"

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Yotam Ottolenghi: "I’m begging to be shutdown" Tier 2 Coronavirus lockdown restaurants London

Related tags: Yotam Ottolenghi, Restaurant, Coronavirus, lockdown

Yotam Ottolenghi has said the Tier 2 restrictions imposed on London has seen year-on-year takings at his London restaurants fall by between 80% and 90%.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4​'s Today​ programme this morning (22 October), the renowned chef, who operates six sites across the capital, said it was a sad reality that he was begging the Government to order the shutdown of his restaurants so that he would be able to access furlough support for his staff.

“In all honesty it’s terrible, we are on our knees," he said.

"Having already had the rule of six and the 10pm curfew, now we have to deal with the fact that households are unable to mix inside, and so we just don’t have customers coming through the doors."

Last week London's Coronavirus alert level was raised from 'medium' to 'high'​, meaning households across the capital are now barred from mixing in any indoor setting including pubs, restaurants and bars.

Restaurateurs have complained they have the 'worst of both worlds' under Tier 2, with onerous restrictions but no additional funding.

"Before Tier 2, takings had already dropped by 50% on last year, and now they're down to just 10% or 20%," continued Ottolenghi.

"This is just not a viable place for a restaurant to be in, and I am sick of worry for my staff and those of other restaurants across the land that are stuck in this cursed Tier 2 category, which deprives us of oxygen but doesn’t give us any support. It’s ludicrous.

“Ironically, I’m begging  to be shutdown. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it is the sad reality.

"At least then I would know we could get some kind of financial support and furlough payments for our staff."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce new financial support for hospitality businesses in areas operating under Tier 2 Coronavirus restrictions later today​, which could involve reducing employers’ contributions to the wages of employees whose income is partly subsidised by the Job Support Scheme (JSS).

In Tier 3 areas, the Government will pay 67% of affected workers’ wages, up to £2,100 a month, under the JSS from 1 November, with some workers also able to claim Universal Credit.

But in Tier 2 regions, the only help available will be the standard JSS, which is meant to support 'viable' jobs only, requires employees to do at least a third of their normal hours, and demands a much larger contribution from employers.

Ottolenghi said that if the Government offered the same Tier 3 furlough deal to businesses in Tier 2, it would leave his businesses in a much better place.

"If we get 67% of salary from the Government at Tier 2, it will be a blessed start, and we might be able to work around it," he said.

"I can't speak for everybody, though. We are in a dire situation."

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