The organisers behind Monday's hospitality protest at Westminster said they will return in greater numbers if the government fails to reverse its policies around the latest operating restrictions.
Around 600 people descended on London's Parliament Square yesterday to protest the successive blows restrictions have dealt the industry in recent months and call for further support for businesses and employees.
Rachel Harty, founder of HospoDemo, told The Caterer: "The turnout was far greater than we'd expected, it was amazing to see the whole industry represented there, everyone from front of house, back of house, bartenders, chefs, caterers, catering students...
"The feedback has been incredible. A huge outpouring from people standing up for their jobs. Their livelihoods are hanging in the balance. They can't work from home."
The protest called for science-based evidence and sector-specific funding to save the hospitality industry, which is being crippled by recent measures including the 10pm curfew and the tier system.
As part of the demonstration, a letter, addressed to prime minister Boris Johnson and signed by Harty on behalf of HospoDemo, was delivered to parliament. It called for "guaranteed access" to the enhanced Job Support Scheme, across Tier 2 and 3, "until restrictions are lifted" and an "enhanced Job Support Scheme for those whose earnings include tips".
The letter urged for extensions until December 2021 to the business rates holiday and VAT relief, for rent relief and for government disruption grants for the hospitality industry to be be made available across "all sectors, venues and tiers".
It also requested that the government use Public Health England (PHE) data and scientific evidence "to review existing policy and inform any further policy that affects hospitality businesses".
The letter explained: "We were shut down with a few days' notice in March. Then asked to invest millions to become ‘Covid safe' quickly upon re-opening. The industry obliged to accommodate the ‘Eat Out To Help Out' scheme, only a few weeks later to be told to shut down at 10pm or altogether, with no scientific rationale or consideration given to areas with lower R rates."
Harty is aware that, for many businesses, time is running out and has asked the government to "intervene as a matter of urgency" to save the UK's hospitality industry and the livelihoods of millions of people.
The letter concluded: "We are ready to play our part in the recovery and get this industry back to full health and contributing a combined £39b in taxes, but we can not do it without your help – please."
Harty added: "We as an industry demand to be heard, and if nothing happens we'll be back again, in even bigger numbers.
"I am hopeful. Every industry has been affected by Covid-19 but ours more so and we need the government to take urgent action to save hospitality before it's gone."