Suffolk restaurant boss demands support from government

Ugur Vata

Ugur Vata at The Galley in the summer when he opened its new ice cream bar. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

One of Suffolk's best-known restaurateurs has added his voice to warnings that the industry is facing a crisis because of a lack of government support after potential customers were advised to stay away.

Ugur Vata runs The Galley restaurant on Market Hill in Woodbridge and said the number of customers had fallen dramatically after government scientists urged people to avoid socialising in the run-up to Christmas.

He originally had 42 people booked for Christmas lunch at his restaurant - but nearly two thirds cancelled their reservations, leaving him with just 15 customers on the big day.

He used Facebook to express his frustration at what he saw as inadequate support for a sector that provides millions of jobs in the economy.

Mr Vata wrote: "The Government gives peanut grants and takes back by taxes - deferred VAT has already been paid back by the majority of our industry.

"We are also having to pay higher wages to our staff to keep them with us so we can keep our livelihood going.

"Boris keeps telling us to increase wages but the public is to scared to go out and spend money as they are told to stay safe. 

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"We are the safest industry as we are testing every day and protecting our customers. Our reward is an unofficial lockdown from the beginning of our busiest month of the year!"

Mr Vata's Facebook comments come just days after Adnams chief executive Andy Wood warned that hospitality was "facing the economic equivalent of long Covid" and Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie said the industry was facing "lockdown in all but name".

Chancellor Rishi Sunak did announce a £1bn package to support businesses affected by the Omicron variant shortly before Christmas - this included grants of up to £6,000 and support for cultural organisations - but many across the industry have said this would go nowhere near covering their losses in what is usually the busiest few weeks of the year.

Mr Vata said: "We have done a huge amount to make our business safe. We have reduced the number of covers to increase the space - and we have then lost customers after the government warnings.

"They talk about the support on offer - but the numbers they are talking about are only for the largest premises. When you look at places like this they really are only offering peanuts."

He said his restaurant would be closed after the New Year's weekend until the middle of January.

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