HospoDemo: "We're determined to continue fighting the cause for hospitality"

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Podcast - HospoDemo founder Rachel Harty on protest movement need for hospitality sector financial support Coronavirus tier restrictions curfew

Related tags: Coronavirus, London, lockdown, Coronavirus tier system, Protest, HospoDemo

The founder of HospoDemo says the hospitality sector has been made a scapegoat by the Government, as she prepares to lead a second hospitality demonstration against the ongoing restrictions.

Speaking on The Restaurant Podcast​, Rachel Harty - a long-standing industry marketer - says that businesses feel like they're being made an example of without explanation, and that the Government approach to imposing operational measures on the sector has been 'unusual'.

"It has been an incredibly tricky time for hospitality," she says.

"We feel as though the industry has been made a scapegoat. Operators feel that they've done everything that was asked of them to be Covid compliant; spending millions of pounds putting in safety measures to make their premises highly-controlled environments. But despite all that they're either unable to open at all or only able to open with so many restrictions in place that turning a profit is an incredibly difficult thing to do."

The second HospoDemo protest, which takes place today (7 December) in Parliament Square, will once again see members of the hospitality trade call on the Government to review its policies relating to hospitality venues, both in terms of restrictions and industry specific support.

Harty says she has been reaching out particularly to trade bodies representing wet-led pubs and bars for the second demonstration, in light of the tougher restrictions faced by those businesses under the tightened Tier 2 and 3 rules.

"Lots of wet-led businesses are unable to open at the moment. Stats [from the British Beer and Pub Association] show that just 27% of pubs in Britain reopened after the second lockdown lifted, with many suggesting they could close again if it isn't viable for them to continue operating."

Harty was compelled to set up HospoDemo in the wake of the Government's decision to introduce a 10pm curfew on hospitality businesses in England, which under the new rules has been moved to 11pm.

The first demonstration, which took place in early October, saw many of London's leading chefs joined the protest including Yotam Ottolenghi; The Harwood Arms head chef Sally Abé; Jason Atherton; St John co-founder Fergus Henderson; Drake & Morgan CEO Jillian MacLean; Tom Aikens; and Rochelle Canteen owner Margot Henderson.

While the introduction of the tiers partly drove Harty's decision to stage a second demonstration, it was already something that was on her mind.

"There was no point in doing the first [demonstration] and leaving it at that if nothing happened. A few days after the original protest we did see Rishi Sunak announce further financial support for hospitality. And while it didn't go far enough at all, it did feel like we had made a minor achievement.

"But clearly the new tier system has been a hammer blow to hospitality. As an industry, we've been more unfairly treated than any other, and that's something we really want to address this time round."

Looking ahead, Harty says HospoDemo will continue to fight for the industry as it works to recover from the impact of the pandemic, although she's not clear yet what form that protest will take.

"As a movement, we're absolutely determined to continue to fight the cause for hospitality in the face of what will be one of the most difficult quarters in the history of the industry.

"If the movement is needed then we will absolutely be there. We will continue to fight."

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