Restaurants Association of Ireland Opening Statement 23rd March 2021- Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht

Our CEO Adrian Cummins and President Mark McGowan spoke to the Joint Committee today on the Impact of Covid-19 on Hospitality Sector.

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The opening statement delivered by CEO Adrian Cummins is below.

Chair, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. I am joined here with the President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Mark McGowan.

As we are all aware, COVID 19 has had a devastating impact upon, lives, livelihoods and society in general. 4,588 people have lost their lives due to COVID 19 and our sympathies on behalf of the Association goes to their families and loved ones. We also think about the 280,000 people who work in Hospitality and Tourism who have had their lives turned upside down. Half of those employed in Hospitality work in Restaurants, Cafes and Pubs that serve food.

We are here today to offer insight into how COVID 19 has impacted upon the restaurant and foodservice sector and to propose supports for the survival of a sector which has now had restricted trading for over a year.

Let us be very clear, we trust the medical advisors, we do not want to open before it is safe to do so. What we are asking for is the metrics, what is the plan that will allow us to see the light at the end of tunnel?

Hospitality Businesses are on the brink of collapse, 50% of restaurants face permanent closure.

Reopening our businesses viably with indoor dining as our 1st priority. The narrative of summer of outdoors doesn’t work for restaurants.

We need a plan to reemploy staff and above all our industry needs HOPE.

Current business supports do not go far enough.

Continuation of the EWSS at the current rate is crucial. The Covid Recovery Support Scheme (CRSS) must be extended to include Level 3 restrictions and the current rate doubled to cover fixed costs. Businesses previously excluded due to lack of a fixed premises such as contract caterers must be included in financial supports going forward.

A restart grant for 8 weeks is needed for reopening costs. The Commercial Rates waiver must be extended until the end of 2021 and the current VAT rate of 9% must remain in place until 2025.

As we start on the road to recovery, the challenges we have are:

Little to no payment on business interruption insurance claims,

Commercial landlords seeking full rents for the period of closure, with some charging interest on arrears to add to the misery restaurant owners are going through currently.

Utilities providers disconnecting services to restaurants and hospitality businesses,

The Banking Sector Blacklisting Hospitality Businesses & Workers by way of declining mortgage and loan applications

Local Authorities issuing commercial rates bills while businesses are in lockdown and having traded for a max of 64 days since last March.

With only 20% of restaurants able to avail of outdoor dining, the current regime is wrapped in red tape, major costs associated and extreme restrictions.

No Restaurant or Gastro Pub representation on the Board of Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, Tourism Recovery Oversight Group.

A cost prohibited chef apprenticeship scheme with very little output of qualified apprentices based on the size of scale of the industry.

A lack of joined up approach by state bodies with responsibilities for tourism and hospitality.

Urgent action is needed to ensure the restaurant and hospitality sector survives.

Thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns and read our proposal of supports. We are happy to take any questions.

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