Manager of Mumtaz Leeds says lockdown will be like "knife in the heart" for restaurant

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The manager of a popular Leeds restaurant said the national lockdown will be like a "knife in the heart" for the business.

Asad Arif, Customer & Business Relations Manager of Mumtaz Leeds, said the restaurant was left in a position where it was more about "survival" following the last lockdown.

However, in a letter penned to the Yorkshire Evening Post, he said the new lockdown - following a "nonsensical" curfew which destroyed diners' experiences - has left employees in a position where they have to retrain or look for other income.

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The letter in full reads: "Lockdown 2.0 cannot be called the ’nail in the coffin’ for our restaurant or the hospitality industry as a whole. It’s more like a knife being plunged deeper into the heart with the assailant promising to call you the Uber to the hospital ‘but I’ll let you know if I make that call later’.

Mumtaz Leeds/Simon HulmeMumtaz Leeds/Simon Hulme
Mumtaz Leeds/Simon Hulme

"We completely understand the we are not alone in this pandemic. We also understand the Government is under immense pressure from the whole nation and the hundreds of varying industries, supply chains and consumers.

"However something has to be done which is better than what is proposed.

"The methods used by the government thus far have already created a close to impossible position for restaurants to make any profit.

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"Most restaurants, including Mumtaz Leeds, were left in a position where it was more about ’survival’ and balancing the books as best as possible without letting down employees and their families.

"The table of 6 rule and limitations on weddings destroyed 40% of our revenue - our restaurant is very popular for parties, events, celebrations and weddings. The nonsensical curfew of 10pm destroyed the ‘dining experience’ and consumer desire (not confidence) to dine out.

"What is the purpose of heading out to dine in a nice relaxed environment knowing you must be out before 10pm? The above was the position before…. Well what about now? Now we are left cash-strapped.

"Money has been heavily invested to make our venue Covid safe. Further expense in re-arranging employee times and hours spent creating flexible rota’s so staff (and their families) do not lose income due to reduced hours and inevitably less people eating out due to the circumstances.

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"We are also left in a position of not knowing how (and when) to re-open. Do we invest in Christmas menus, decoration and entertainment or will the lockdown be extended beyond 2 December?

"Will the one month of trade be enough to keep us surviving through to March given traditionally most hospitality sectors struggle in normal January to March period. The whole situation takes its toll on any business, owner and certainly the employees.

"The employees are left in a position where they have to re-train or certainly look for other income. Most of our employees have remained loyal but they have their own expenses and cannot continue to live on furlough pay. Credit cards and personal loans continue to build up and this naturally leads to mental stress, anxiety and takes a toll on the whole family. It is understandable where employees have to leave restaurants which inevitably results in further difficulties for any restaurant.

"The government have offered £3000 a month support. This does nothing to assist in our £10,000 a month rent nor the utility bills and other costs that are payable. The previous support was a £25,000 grant and removal of business rates. However again, what use is £25,000 when rent and expenses over £50,000 have built up over period 21 March to 4 July. What use is this money when staff have left to obtain more secured employment at Amazon or Tesco?

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"Where does a business survive with the stress of having to recruit new staff and then incur extra expenses in safeguards and staff to remain Covid compliant? It is not fair nor correct to state the industry must innovate and think of moving towards ’take out/deliveries’.

"Mumtaz Leeds, as an example, prides itself in the dining experience it offers. The ability to invite people to enjoy it’s magnificent high ceilings, dockside view, chandeliers and freshly prepared food. We cannot offer that in a plastic box. We request our plea here at Mumtaz Leeds is spread out through the media.

"We know we are not alone in these difficulties. Other campaigners have proposed a #nationaltimeout where rent and other main expenses are suspended for 9 months. This has now been realised as not enough and support and calls are growing for a grant where 50% of expenses (rent and service charges) are paid for the period 21 March 2020 to whenever we are allowed to open without restrictions and certainly threat of future restrictions. The hospitality, retail and leisure industries provide two main benefits to the nation.

"The first being obvious, financial economic contribution. The second is something which is often forgotten. It allows the nation, as individual humans, to express themselves, to be happy, to enjoy and create memories with loved ones.

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"Mumtaz Leeds strongly believes it, and other business’s in this sector, provide an outlet for people and help in raising the wellness of people mentally and emotionally.

"If the government does not assist and URGENTLY provide confirmation of this assistance it simply will leave the majority of business owners and employees in a position where they are left in the dangerous position of purgatory.

"Quite the correct usage of the word as there is a feeling the hospitality trade is being punished for sins unknown and the grim reaper is standing ready to call that Uber as before mentioned."


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