'So painful I want to cry': £1bn hospitality fund is 'not enough'

The junction of Heath Street and Hampstead High Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Some businesses in the hospitality industry find themselves at a crossroads - Credit: Polly Hancock

Hospitality businesses in Hampstead say the chancellor's support scheme “will do nothing” to make up for their loss of earnings during the Omicron surge.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1 billion fund, which includes cash grants of up to £6,000 for businesses in the hospitality sector, as well as covering sick pay costs for certain venues. 

Musa Mohsen, at Polly’s cafe in South End Road, said the current level of support puts the business under threat, adding: "Its impossible to carry on... people just want to take away, they don’t sit down and have food.

"We work so hard but you don't even take a penny home.. we just want to pay the bills and it's impossible. [The government] should come here and try do it themselves.”

Antonia Macone, who runs La Cage Imaginaire, a French restaurant in Flask Walk, said the fund is “a big mistake” and she is “very disappointed”.

“It really doesn't cover the loss — the rent is so high, we have the staff salaries… we are having to throw lots of food in rubbish because people are cancelling their parties the day before. I have an empty restaurant today. I give my life to this job, I’ve done it for many years... it is so painful I want to cry," she said.

Jack at the King William IV pub said: “I don’t think it's really that much money. For a business like this on the high street, £6,000 doesn't even cover a beer order.”

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The chancellor described the scheme as “generous”, and said the new support recognises the situation many hospitality and leisure businesses are facing in the run up to Christmas. But some businesses have decided to take control of the situation themselves.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced a fund for the hospitality industry

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced a fund for the hospitality industry - Credit: PA

One staff member at The Horseshoe pub, in Heath Street, said the pub has decided to shut for the next week "to stem the flow of the new variant".

"We will re-open in the new year depending on restrictions, and see what happens, just to play it safe,” they said.