Support needed to stop hospitality industry collapsing like a ‘house of cards’

Martin Wolstencroft, owner of Arc Inspirations. Picture James Hardisty.Martin Wolstencroft, owner of Arc Inspirations. Picture James Hardisty.
Martin Wolstencroft, owner of Arc Inspirations. Picture James Hardisty. | Johnston Press Resell
Bar and restaurant owners in Leeds have joined forces to call for government intervention to stop the hospitality industry ‘collapsing like a house of cards’.

The entrepreneurs behind Manahatta, Bundobust and Mojo are among the leaders supporting the Hospitality Union’s #NationalTimeOut initiative, which is calling for a nine-month pause in rent payments for the hospitality sector.

In a letter which has been sent to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, 20 Leeds-based business owners said: “We understand that our landlords have covenants which they must satisfy as indeed their lenders require to balance their books. Government intervention is required here to protect all these levels, without it everything could collapse like a house of cards.”

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Martin Wolstencroft, managing director of Leeds-based Arc Inspirations, which employs 700 staff at bars including Banyan Bar & Kitchen, BOX and Manahatta, said landlord support for tenants had been mixed. “On one site we’ve got a three-month rent-free period and another has served us a legal notice.”

He said if lockdown continued until the end of the year he would have to take out a £2m loan just to pay the rent. “It’s fundamentally wrong that we need to be taking out bank loans because of government enforcement.

“We’re not insured for this so the only recourse we have is support from our landlords, the banks and the government.”

He added: “It’s not just for now, it’s going to totally change the investment in our business for the future. We won’t be able to take any further loans to open more sites and drive our business forward”

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Martin Greenhow, managing director of MOJO, which employs around 100 staff across five sites said: “There’s going to be pain for everybody and we need to share that pain.”

LETTER IN FULL

Why are we contacting you?

To demonstrate both our support for the Hospitality Union’s #NationalTimeOut initiative and express our distress at the current impending situation. The seriousness of which was further

emphasised today (22nd April) by Prof Chris Whitty’s statement that social distancing will be required for the rest of this calendar year.

Presently hospitality businesses across the UK are in free fall. Whilst the initiatives already established by HM Government are needed and welcomed, they do not provide all the support that

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is so desperately required for our sector to survive. Indeed, should the mandatory and understandable closure of our businesses continue for much longer as now seems likely it is questionable whether the effort to establish the current measures was even worthwhile.

As explained in the Hospitality Union’s proposal we require a breathing space from rental payments until we can become operational entities once again. The proposal from the Hospitality Union

provides a framework to do that whilst not ignoring the fact that we do not exist in isolation and we understand that our landlords have covenants which they must satisfy as indeed their lenders

require to balance their books. Government intervention is required here to protect all these levels, without it everything could collapse like a house of cards.

Who are we?

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We are the bar and restaurant owners of Leeds as listed at the end of this letter. On the whole, we are not huge national or international companies but in Leeds alone we employ thousands of

people, across the country millions are employed in hospitality. We are limited companies, partnerships and family firms nurtured sometimes over decades or generations with love at the cost

of blood, sweat and considerable tears in the quest to build our dreams.

Those dreams now hang in ragged tatters. Torn by the storm which is Covid 19. We blame no one for it but we had no way to prepare for it or mitigate against it. Even those of us who had infectious disease insurance are having their claims stone walled by insurers.

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Without assistance we simply cannot survive on our own. As people who have fought and grafted for years to build our businesses, begging for help does not come easily. Yet here we are on bended knee.

We ask you adopt the #NationalTimeOut framework urgently so that lenders can support landlords who can in turn support operators.

If not the social fabric of our country will never be the same again.

To those reading this in a public forum via traditional or social media, please remember where you met your loved one, where you laughed, where you sang, danced, ate, and drank.

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We built our dreams so they could be the backdrop of your golden memories.

Please help us to be there for your future memory building.

For further information email [email protected]

Please help us by rallying to our cause for a #NationalTimeOut.

Sign this petition http://chng.it/YXkhY4sYSB.

Contact your MP.

Share this letter.

To our friends and colleagues across the entire country, we beseech you to join us in our appeal to the government to protect our industry and all its stakeholders.

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Below is a list of contacts for local Leeds MPs please forward this letter with your endorsement to your MP urgently.

Thank you.

Shadow Treasurer and Leeds West: Rachel Reeves [email protected]

Leeds North East: Fabian Hamilton [email protected]

Leeds Central: Hilary Benn [email protected]

Richard Burgon Leeds East: [email protected]

Leeds North West: Alex Sobel [email protected]

Jointly Signed

Martin Wolstencroft, CEO & Co Founder of Arc Inspirations

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Jamie Lawson, Owner of Ossett Brewery & Pubs & SALT Beer Factory

Scott Munro, Co Founder of Red’s True Barbeque

Seema Dhiman, Director/Owner of Demon Leisure & The Brotherhood

Adam Jones, MD of Tattu Restaurants

Mark Young, Director of Sela Bar

Phil Harrison, Director of Escapism Bar Group

William Pearson, Director of Boot & Rally

Marko Husak, Director of Bundobust

John Gyngell, Director of North Bar

Andrew Turner, Director of Wax Bar

Ashley Kollakowsli, Director of Rose Four

Matthew Jones, CEO/Director of Roxy Leisure

Malcolm Evans, Director of MOJO

Ben Warren, Director of Concept Taverns

Aaron Mellor, MD of Tokyo Industries/Reds Ture Barbeque

Ed Mason, Director of Whitelocks Ale House

Christian Townsley, Director of North Bar

Mayur Patel, Director of Bundobust

Martin Greenhow, MD of MOJO

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