Manchester restaurateur and chef Simon Wood has spoken out against the government’s lack of supportfor hospitality, threatening that if he is forced to close without a proper financial support package he is of a mind to ‘tell them to shove it’.
Tweeting ‘they can fine me if they want’, he added ‘maybe everyone should do it until they support us properly.’
His furious comments follow a week of mounting pressure on the government to introduce a proper financial support package for the sector, and come amid numerous allegations of a ‘lockdown by stealth’.
Speaking to ITV on Monday night the chef went even further, taking a dig at both the lack of support provided to the sector so far and at plans being floated this week, which suggest new draft regulations would ban indoor mixing except for work purposes, and pubs and restaurants would be limited to outdoor service only.
“Hospitality is a safe environment. If it’s deemed not safe then support it financially and close it for the good of the public. No decent operator in the entire country’s going to argue with that,” he said.
‘The fact of the matter is, though, they’ve been told people not to go out.
“We’re in a stealth lockdown and we’re suffering and bearing the brunt of it – it’s really, really concerning that we don’t know what’s coming next and there’s mutings of outdoor dining, erm, I’m not sure I know many people that would come for a 12-course tasting menu on the balmy streets of Manchester in January.”
Making a reference to the recent allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street, he added, “to be honest, without any kind of evidence, without everyone following the same set of rules, why should we – why should we jeopardise the businesses that we work night and day to keep afloat and we have done for more than just the past two years?”
“Forget the pandemic, hospitality is a tough industry with very low margins, we work very hard for very little a lot of the time. So you know it’s important that if they aren’t going to support us that we stand together as an industry and make a collective stance”.
Simon Wood is just one figure who has been vocal in speaking out about the need for better support in recent weeks.
He’s been joined by the likes of Andy Burnham and Sacha Lord, both of whom have been calling for an increase in support since the arrival of Omicron in England, which was the first catalyst for a drop-off in restaurant and Christmas party bookings.
In response to the suggestion that a return to outdoor dining could be introduced in Manchester as part of a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ after Christmas, Burnham tweeted:
“Outdoor only? Have they been to Manchester in December?!
“You can’t help but think they’re trying to think of any old excuse to avoid a financial support scheme for hospitality.”
And reaching the end of a long day of meetings with hospitality yesterday, Lord tweeted that he had ‘witnessed tears, anger, fear, anxiety and total lost hope’.
He said: “Every meeting or outburst has carried the same question. Where on earth is The Chancellor @RishiSunak?”
The comments echo feelings of concern shared by hospitality businesses up and down the country and come amid increasing calls on the Treasury to introduce better support for the sector.
Since the arrival of Omicron in the country several weeks ago, booking cancellations have skyrocketed across the industry – leaving many fearing they will not survive into the new year without additional restrictions and financial support.
It follows the announcement of a state of emergency in London, which was called by the capital’s Mayor Sadiq Khan over the weekend.
Khan appeared on Andrew Marr’s final BBC show on Sunday to peak about the urgent need for better support to be made available to the sector.
He told Marr that people should go to pubs and restaurants “if they can do so safely”. stating that “pubs, restaurants, and bars have worked so hard to make their places covid safe” before advising people to do a lateral flow before they visited, to socially distance where they can, and to wear masks where they can’t.
“It’s cheaper to support business with grants, with business rates relief, and with furlough than allow them to go bust,” he added.
Following the state of emergency announcement in London, the government held emergency COBRA and cabinet meetings on Monday to discuss future plans – with three different scenarios currently on the table.
Despite this, no Covid announcements have yet been forthcoming.
Featured image – ITV
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Manchester’s homeless community
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Greater Manchester’s homeless population early next year.
Hosting just the second ‘Raise the Roof’ fundraising concert in over three years – the pandemic having put a pause on the initiative – the money generated will go towards providing a safe place to sleep to thousands in around the Manchester area.
The Middleton-born musician confirmed the date on Tuesday.
While Fray is currently the only name confirmed to be playing this year’s gig, his popularity in the city alone is sure to drive thousands to iconic Manchester venue for this great cause.
Most importantly, not only will all ticket sales go towards the A Bed Every Night drive, but so too will the proceeds from the re-release of the band’s debut album, St Jude, dropping on the same day as the gig.
The Mayor’s Charity has held a number of hugely successful campaigns already this year, including their annual 24 Run Against Homelessness as well as Mayor Andy Burnham‘s second night DJing at the one and only Warehouse Project.
Speaking in an official press release, Burnham spoke about the spoke about “the power of music to get people together and raise vital funds” for causes like combatting homelessness.
He went on to say that despite all the money already raised this year, “there’s more still to do and we know the cost of living crisis has started to impact on people’s housing”, adding: “We’re a musical city, so what better way to help those who need it but with a night with the incredible Liam Fray.”
Responding to Burnham’s thanks on Twitter, Fray had a simple message:
Over 4,000 unique individuals have been supported by A Bed Every Night since 2019, with more than 600 people now supplied with accommodation across the region who would otherwise be at risk of sleeping rough.
The Mayor’s campaign works with 21 different organisations across Greater Manchester helping provide a safe place to sleep to the homeless and those in needs on a regular basis. Wonderful stuff.
How to help in Manchester if you see someone homeless in the freezing cold
Whilst much has been done over the past few years to improve options for people who find themselves homeless in Greater Manchester, it’s still a huge problem – felt especially hard when the temperature drops.
The Met Office has forecast lows of -3 that will last across the weekend into early next week, whilst health officials have told people to put their heating on, despite rising costs. But some don’t even have the option to do that.
In the UK last year, 1,286 people died while homeless according to the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) Dying Homeless Project.
As a general rule, there are no legal protections for people sleeping rough in England. Most councils offer extra beds when temperatures are forecast to drop below 0ºC for three consecutive nights.
Fortunately here in Manchester, there is more support at hand.
What support does Manchester offer homeless people in freezing weather?
Manchester is the first major metropolitan area in the country to promise help as soon as the temperature drops below 0ºC.
Shelters are opened up in and around the city centre as soon as one night of freezing temperatures is forecast, and stay open until temperatures rise back up above zero, giving everyone a warm place to rest.
Accommodation varies from hostel ‘sit up’ spaces to an emergency shelter run by local charity Coffee4Craig for the council, where people are provided with sleeping bags, mats, armchairs and even a TV. And when space runs out in the hostels, people are given a hotel room for the night.
There is also the Mayor’s flagship A Bed Every Night scheme, which looks to offer a bed, hot meal and support for anyone sleeping rough in Greater Manchester at any time of year – regardless of the weather.
What can I do to help someone?
If you’re concerned about someone, you can contact your local authority via one of the numbers below.
Alternatively, you can use this tool to view the services on offer in your area.