Lockdown rumours make me feel that my restaurant’s fate is out of my hands | UK news

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Based on leaks and speculation that restaurants and bars in a huge area of the country far from Westminster were to be shut, as a northerner I spent last week wondering if my York restaurant, the Rattle Owl, was actually northern. Scotland had gone. Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds were mooted next, all in local lockdown. York was not.

That was midweek. Then, on Friday, the Daily Mail flagged York as red and the Guardian reported that most of Yorkshire would be included. The fate of my business (and my supply chain) is now dependent upon highlighter pens, someone crunching numbers, and journalists’ cosy relationships with factional politicians, until the full announcement on Monday.

I own a small indie restaurant and employ 16 people. While the politicians manoeuvre, I’ve a full fridge for the weekend and a big order of wine in, but we could face cancellations as confidence drops. We’ve been keeping stocks low, but I dread telling suppliers we can’t order any more.

I’m angry and anxious. We comply with every rule, and I know hospitality is to be sacrificed over schools as I have a nine-year-old, but after six months I’m resigned to the fact that our survival is based on quirks of fate that are far beyond my control.

We’ve been busy so far. I’m almost loth to admit it because others across the country haven’t been, and I feel for them. We are a lovely local restaurant and have huge support. York has been boosted by staycations, which has really carried hospitality here over summer. Other cities haven’t fared so well. My building costs a fortune in upkeep but it has finally come into its own: I’ve got space to move tables upstairs, to ensure social distancing, but that means more staff.

I had a six-month mortgage break, so I didn’t have to negotiate with a landlord, but that has now restarted. The rule of six cancelled bigger tables, so we take on more tables of two – but that too needs more staff.

The curfew hit hard as we need to turn tables to survive. My last sitting is now at 8pm, but not everyone can eat then as my small kitchen needs to stagger the sittings: so we try to encourage people to eat at 5pm or 6pm. Tongue in cheek, I’m thinking of launching a campaign: “Eat at five to help us survive.”

Perhaps Rishi will give you money to eat early, which would be a lot more useful to me than “eat out to help out” ever was. I’ve been open three days a week since reopening, and increased to four last week. Bookings are down 20% this week, but my staff costs have been high because one front-of-house had to isolate for 14 days as he was flagged as a contact. I’ve had a chef off for six days after travelling to Bradford for a test that was lost, then to Selby for one that proved negative.

One chef who was due to start had to go to Durham for a test. It proved positive. Luckily he hadn’t yet been in the kitchen – fate again – but of course I paid him.

What would he have done otherwise with £94 a week statutory sick pay, and when the £500 top-up for isolation is only if you’re claiming universal or working tax credit?

Come Monday, what will we all do?

Clarrie O’Callaghan is the owner of the Rattle Owl restaurant in York

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Lockdown rumours make me feel that my restaurant’s fate is out of my hands | UK news

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