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A safe place for families to meet and a source of employment and income for our teams

For Christmas we will be allowed to meet upto three households

There is something joyous about going to work. A sense of pride. Achievement. Having the ability to support your family. Many of us take it for granted as we’ve been doing it for so long. If you’ve ever lost your job the reality will sadly be very different. Victor and I were unemployed for several months before we opened Contini George Street, almost 20 years ago, we know what it feels like.

Work for some is just an end game, retirement. For others it’s a life’s achievement. Live to work or work to live. At the moment I’m more than happy to do both. If you run a family business it can also be your home and your friends included. If you lose one you can lose everything.

Retirement is painted as a utopia. Financial freedom, the opportunity to enjoy lost time, have those adventures you’ve only dreamed of and get those roses pruned and Chelsea picture perfect. Retirement for most, yes is a great choice. Covid will be creating a forced retirement or long term unemployment for many that is very far from choice or financial freedom.

Many business owners operating in Levels 3 and Level 4 will be going to work every day knowing it’s costing them not just for today, but for many of their tomorrows. Many will be paying their businesses, from personal reserves, to survive rather than their businesses paying them for another day’s work.

It’s not only delaying retirement it’s potentially preventing it. If you’ve never been self employed or ran your own business this may be hard to understand how tightly work and life are tied.

Covid hasn’t just affected the owners of our businesses but the workforce. The gig economy presented a very different approach to employment. A freedom. An opportunity to work and study, to fit in around childcare and be flexible getting a balance of work and life. It served many well. But many have been left without work and without access to furlough. The gig economy created a challenge for us trying to fill our seasonal recruitment. A problem we sadly haven’t faced in 2020. In recent years there has always been work but this time, there may be work but for many it’s not the choice they would want. In some sectors such as events and hotels, whole layers of management have lost their jobs as there isn’t the demand to support their skills. With reports of homelessness in former hospitality sector workers reaching all time highs we all have to be mindful of others circumstances, especially at Christmas.

I am sad that the public sector is experiencing a pay freeze. I can only add that the majority of private sector workers I know have absorbed a significant pay cut. We all need balance to get through this.

In 2019 in the UK, 5 million people were self-employed. There were 5.9 million private sector businesses, interestingly 76% of which didn’t employ anyone. But the 16.6m workforce employed by SME accounted for 60% of the total British workforce. 3.2m being employed in hospitality.

So far in 2020, hospitality has lost 660,000 jobs due to Covid. With a further 300,000 expected from October to November. This estimate was before the new Tiers and Levels regulations were released. Affecting almost 1 in 3 of our sector’s workforce.

In Level 3 today YOU CAN:

Buy a pint (or more if you wish) from a bar to take away until 10pm and drink in the street in an uncontrolled and unsocially distanced environment.
Buy a bottle of vodka and get it delivered to your door within an hour. (Last week, 75cl vodka was Deliveroo’s top selling line across the whole of the UK. Not an American Hot or a Firecracker Chicken (If you don’t know what either of these two items are I LOVE you even more!)
Order an American Hot or a Firecracker Chicken as a hot take away from a restaurant meal until 10pm
Buy unlimited alcohol at a supermarket or corner shop and drink at home
Have unlimited drinks delivered to your room in a hotel
Walk along the street and sit on a park bench with a hip flask
Have unlimited alcoholic drinks in an airport lounge before you fly
You can meet upto two households with 6 people

In Level 3 today YOU CAN NOT:

Have a glass of wine with your lunch in a restaurant
Have any food or drink in a restaurant after 6pm
Have any alcoholic drink in any public area in a hotel
Visit a hotel in another Level
Drive to an airport if you are in a higher Level
Meet in anyone’s home

Some of the government’s choices, particularly those around alcohol don’t seem fair or balanced. Most importantly they don’t allow our sector to function fairly, and most importantly they prevent it’s people from fairly earning a living. Penalised without evidence or fact.

Can you tell me why a 90 year old lady who has been through a World War can’t have a glass of wine with her lunch but a 20 year old can stand in the street with his pals until he’s legless? PS with no access to public toilets!

I’d love it if we had a “Covragette” movement where ladies and gentleman chained themselves to railings in Charlotte Square demanding a glass of Pinot Grigio with their lunch! There is a photo opportunity there if anyone is interested? Socially distanced of course.

If alcohol is the problem it should be banned across the board. That would cause a riot!

With no likelihood of a total ban on alcohol sales, hospitality must be permitted to play in the game. We comply with all the legislation. We would have our license removed if we didn’t.

Note, we also have to pay an annual fee to be a licensed premises. We must have licence holders and all our team must have recorded licensing training. It’s a big responsibility, it costs money and our sector takes it seriously. Not being permitted to sell alcohol is a further level of penalty that the sector is actually paying to be NOT permitted to do.

Our industry has been shouting that we hold the key to be part of the solution. Not only as a safe place for our families to meet but as a source of employment and income for our teams.

For Christmas we will be allowed to meet upto three households, unlimited number of guests in England and 8 in Scotland, in your home for upto 5 days, but you can’t go to a restaurant with them or meet any other bubbles. Is this really the right advice? Unregulated, unsocially distanced, family gatherings with our most vulnerable in unventilated spaces. Is someone playing the wrong record?

Hospitality should be the regulated, designated place to meet. If we can put a limit on the number of bags of pasta or rolls of toilet paper we are permitted to buy why can’t we put a limit on the number of glasses of wine or beer you can have with a meal, if this is the issue?

Remember we have already had a sector lockdown twice. Businesses in Level 4 are now in their third lockdown. 76% of hospitality say they won’t survive in Tier 2 and 94% say they’ll be unable to survive in Tier 4. The Scots equivalent will be as painful.

Many who work in the sector have or may still lose their jobs and will have to choose a different career but I doubt it will be in cyber. With Brexit looming (thats next weeks blog) we’ve already started to see choices our European team are choosing to make. More losses and these are not about money.

Even in challenging times Victor and I still love going to work. Although Victor may prefer to be with Rocco for the next wee while! For everyone in Level 4 who are closed or Level 3 like us who only get to work part of our day, we’ve never loved working more. We truly look forward to being able to fully work to improve the lives of our team, our customers and our families and getting back to being sustainable. It’s not about retirement or the end game, it’s about having that sense of pride that we can do this, we can be part of the solution and we’ve survived.

As Giovanni on Strictly says, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. We so value and appreciate all your support.

Keep well and keep surviving


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