Chefs call for more support to help Bristol restaurants

Restaurants in Wapping Wharf
Image caption The Bristol Food Union was formed during lockdown

A group of chefs has warned the restaurant scene in Bristol may take years to recover from the impact of coronavirus.

They want more support for the hospitality industry in the city, which more than 40,000 people work in.

A number of food producers have added their signatures to an open letter to MPs, warning the sector is in "significant and immediate trouble".

The letter calls for more guidance about reopening and help with VAT.

Image copyright Plaster Communications
Image caption Adrian Kirikmaa said he had "never experienced anything like this"

The Bristol Food Union, a partnership of independent restaurants, food producers and community groups, was formed during lockdown to feed vulnerable people and key workers.

With restaurants and bars possibly reopening from 4 July, the union said they need more support to help preserve the 44,000 jobs connected to Bristol's food and drink industry.

Adrian Kirikmaa, who runs B Block pizza restaurant and has signed the letter, said: "I've been a chef for over 30 years and I've never experienced anything like this.

"I've always considered Bristol to be the UK 'capital of food' because the culture is so diverse.

"But there are no real guidelines for us, considering the government want us to reopen in a couple of weeks, which is pathetic."

He said he wanted the current two-metre restrictions reduced to one metre, as they have been elsewhere in Europe.

He thinks it will take two years before things get back to normal.

"Are people going to want to come out again. Having people serve you in PPE, things like that are bound to put people off," he added.

Larkin Cen, a former Masterchef contestant who runs Wokyko on Bristol's Harbourside, has also signed the letter.

He said he was concerned about the long-term impact.

Image copyright Plaster Communications
Image caption Former Masterchef contestant Larkin Cen runs Wokyko

"When you take away the cashflow, the lifeblood of the business is gone - it's like a heart attack," he said.

"We face a battle to restore customer confidence.

"A restaurant experience, I would say, is 70 per cent about the atmosphere and 30 per cent food.

"What happens after lockdown? What will the new normal be?

"Many restaurants may have to completely rethink their business models."

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