Cork restaurateur says Covid-19 supports 'not enough to save everyone' in hospitality sector

Cork restaurateur says Covid-19 supports 'not enough to save everyone' in hospitality sector

Mike Ryan demonstrating the 'pick up' service from Richard Desousa (behind protective screen). Orders can be collected at their public service hatch on French Church Street. 

Cork Chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has said that Government supports, although helpful, will not save many of those employed in the hospitality industry.

Mike Ryan, who owns CoqBull and the Cornstore restaurants, also said that while business owners are facing closure of their premises during what should be the busiest time of the year, they are also now left to figure out the Government’s latest set of supports to those left unemployed.

Supports include the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS).

The PUP is a social welfare payment for employees and self-employed people who have lost employment due to Covid-19.

EWSS is a support that focuses primarily on business eligibility. The scheme provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the numbers of eligible employees on the employer’s payroll and gross pay to employees.

The CRSS is in addition to the EWSS and is available to all businesses that have suffered restrictions under Level 3, 4 or 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid-19.

Where the CRSS is concerned the qualifying turnover criteria for application to the scheme is now 25% of the turnover for the corresponding period in 2019.

Mr Ryan said that the change in the PUP payment rates does not support or provide for many of those employed in the hospitality industry.

A fourth rate of €350 has been made available to people made unemployed who were earning over €400 or more per week.

Mike Ryan in the kitchen. 
Mike Ryan in the kitchen. 

The four rates are as follows: A person who was earning between €151.50 and €202.99 will receive €203. A person who earned €203 to €299.99 will receive €250. A person who earned €300 to €399.99 will receive €300 and a person who earned €400 to €1,462 will receive €350.

Mr Ryan said that although the Government supports may help those who are maybe younger and not tied to as many responsibilities, that it does not support the “primary breadwinner”.

“If you’re someone who has been in this industry for years and have a life built around your earnings, which, after being in the business for years is a hell of a lot more than €350, then you’re in trouble.

“You're talking about general managers, assistant managers, head chefs, sous chefs, they’ve built their lives around those figures of €40,000 to €60,000 a year and that's what they have borrowed against when you’re talking about mortgages and car loans.

“The support isn’t there for those people. They need to be supported with mortgage relief. Paschal Donohoe needs to get the banks to pull together and bring back a moratorium on mortgages for people that are on Covid payment because they cannot afford to pay this,” he said.

Mr Ryan said that there can be a “bit of a misconception when it comes to the hospitality sector” and said that there are people within the sector “earning as much or more than the industrial wage”.

He said that although the Government is helping businesses more than most other European countries that it was “not enough to save everyone”.

Mr Ryan said that he now has to sit down and figure out the new supports and what it means for him and his employees.

“I’m trying to figure out the new wage subsidy scheme and new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) but they’re just vague.

“With the CRSS, the big headline grabber was every business gets €5,000 if you’re down 20%, that’s so far from the truth.

“What it looks like is a tax advance so it’s money that may be payable, or some percentage, through corporate tax but it’s very grey. If people are not aware of this, especially when some people’s tax year ends in December, they can’t plan for it," he said.

Mr Ryan will keep his restaurants open on a takeaway basis for the six week period of Level 5 restrictions.

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