Hospo Demo, the third industry protest in the last few years, was calling on the Government to make a number of changes to help support an industry that is struggling as the cost of living and energy crises continue to bite.
The campaigners were calling for three things from Government, a reduction in VAT to 10% for food and drink in hospitality, a business rates holiday or reduction and a visa scheme to allow overseas staff into the country to help deal with the recruitment crisis.
Sacha Lord, Manchester’s night time economy advisor, was one of the campaigners at the demonstration, he said the industry was “on its knees” and was in the “11th hour”.
“We’re pleading with the Government, we need help. Hospitality is a luxury and we can’t sugar coat that, but we need to look after these small family run independent bars, restaurants and pubs. If we don’t my fear is the Christmas bookings will be camouflaging lthe reality and come January, February and March we’re going to see closures like we’ve never seen before.
“We don’t want cash handouts, what we want is a reduction in VAT. It’s commonsense, it’s much better to have 10% of something than 20% of a shut business.”
However, he wasn’t confident that Government would act. “If I’m completely honest, my heart is sinking, I don’t think with what we’ve seen over the weekend the Government is listening. Where do we go from there, I don’t know. But we’re a resilient sector, and we’ll come together with something.”
Turnout for the demo was lower than expected with organiser Rachel Harty blaming on the current recruitment crisis which limited the ability of operators to get out of their sites to join in, while others couldn’t even afford the train fare to attend, she said.
To see more on the protest, watch the video above.