Yesterday’s Hospo Demo protest saw hundreds of hospitality workers converge on London’s Parliament Square in a bid to protest the lack of support for the industry amid ever-tightening Covid-19 restrictions.
As industry workers stood shoulder-to-shoulder with big names like Jason Atherton, Tom Aikens and Jillian MacLean, banging pots, pans and drinks shakers in the direction of Parliament for around an hour, Hospo Demo founder Rachel Harty told BH that the recently introduced tier system is “a total cop out” on the government’s part.
Harty said: “Close them [hospitality operators] down and give them financial support – don’t leave them in limbo where they haven’t got a chance of getting any customers. But they’re having to stay open because there’s no financial support. It’s a total cop-out.”
Discussing whether the protest will achieve its goal, she added: “I think that they can’t ignore this. The noise of the banging of the pots and pans and shakers has been going on for 40 minutes now with no sign of stopping. All the different media have been here: broadcast, broadsheets…
“So there’s no way of ignoring the passion and anger that people are feeling throughout the industry. I really hope it means this gets put at the top of the political agenda, to address and revisit some of the policies that are making people angry and ruining people’s businesses so much.”
The socially distanced protest provided an added worry for the demonstration’s organisers. First Harty said she was worried no one would turn up, but “as interest built,” she revealed: “I was worried about too many people coming and us being blamed for spreading the virus.
“But it’s been the exact right amount of people to make a noise, but not too many people that there’s been too many crowds. People have worn masks and respected social distancing,” she concluded.
Elsewhere, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also voiced support for the protest and the industry, saying in a statement: “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.
“The 80% 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.”