Cork café owner says 'farcical rule' could lead to closure of businesses

Cork café owner says 'farcical rule' could lead to closure of businesses
Richard Jacob of Idaho Cafe, Caroline Street. He is concerned his business will be forced to close when the EWSS comes into force on September 1Picture: Clare Keogh

A Cork city café owner has raised serious concerns over the future of his business should he and his wife not be able to continue to receive the Government’s Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.

In an open letter to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Richard Jacob, who runs Idaho Café on Caroline Street, called for an amendment to a “farcical rule” which he says would see thousands of businesses close.

He says he and Mairead followed Government advice and closed up shop on March 14, remaining shut until July.

When they reopened, they had to begin operating at a significantly reduced capacity - down to just 12 from 32 originally.

“Despite our investment in extra outdoor furniture, our turnover is down 40%,” the letter reads.

They say they were prepared for that, but not what came next.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will replace the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme from September 1.

Company proprietary directors do not qualify for the revised scheme.

“The Government are now saying that having closed our business, shackled our business and nearly put us out of business, they are now pulling the plug on our business.

“Mairead and I are “directors”, we still make the coffee and cook the food, but because we own our business, the Government are saying that they will not subsidise our wages,” Mr Jacob writes.

The letter continues, highlighting the fixed costs of a 32 seater restaurant which will see Idaho Café facing the prospect of losing money every day they’re open.

“We now face Autumn, alone, without the support of our Government that we have supported with our actions,” Mr Jacob writes.

He said the Finance Minister has given them two options - close the business permanently and claim the dole, or close for 12 months to minimise their losses.

“Having slipped this announcement into a paragraph in the law, the Government are slipping away on holidays, for six weeks, in the height of a pandemic, as the economy slips into an abyss.

“I’m tired of fighting, tired of being taken for granted and tired of paying the salaries of those who put themselves ahead of the citizens of Ireland,” Mr Jacob writes.

“We, like all our fellow countrymen and women have given everything we had to keep our country safe, we deserve a modicum of respect and to have to beg for €203 a week is crassly insulting,” he adds.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, responded to the letter on Twitter saying: “Richard we are working on a solution.” 

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said: “I’ve spoken with the Minister for Finance on this. It’s being examined and we’ll try to find a solution. I recognise how tough business is now for you and all in your sector.”

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