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Govt announces new measures to assist catering trade hit hard by Covid-19

Restaurants in Casemates. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The Gibraltar Government on Monday announced additional financial support measures for the catering industry after the Gibraltar Catering Association said it felt “let down” and “ignored” on promises for support.

Earlier in the day the GCA said its members had lost out on £500,000 in revenue last Christmas due to cancellations after individuals were advised not to socialise over the festive period against a backdrop of increasing Covid-19 cases in the community.

The figure does not include lost revenue from walk-in trade.

The financial assistance that will be offered to the GCA includes a moratorium on rent increases, discount on rates and a waiver of all fees for new employees.

GCA members were some of the worst hit businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, with restaurants and bars having to shut down and only takeaway or food delivery services available.

And while restaurants have reopened, trade has taken a big hit because of travel disruption throughout 2021 and subsequent uncertainty during Christmas.

For many businesses, it has become a question of survival.

The GCA said this financial support was promised to them after parties were cancelled and the public were discouraged from socialising, adding that it now “assumes it is being ignored” by the Government.

“The internal communication from Government coupled with public announcement recommending that people shouldn’t attend Christmas parties cost the catering industry approximately £500,000 in revenue loss through bookings alone, this figure excludes revenue generated by walk-in customers,” the GCA said in a statement.

The association attended a meeting with Government Ministers, Vijay Daryanani and Albert Isola, on January 10 as promised by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

“The Association explained the business losses caused by the Government's announcement and talked about the issues that were affecting the membership generally,” the GCA added.

“Ministers in attendance asked the GCA formally write to them so they could present requests to the Cabinet.”

“The GCA responded on January 12 with a list of ideas for assistance for Government consideration to help mitigate the losses suffered and despite the promise of fast assistance nothing concrete has emerged.”

“After waiting for so long GCA can only assume it is being ignored, despite catering being the industry worst hit by restrictions during the pandemic.”

Hours after the GCA statement was issued, the Government said it has consistently assisted and supported the Catering Association throughout the entire Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Government’s assistance of the Catering Association is part of what the Covid costs are and part of the sums that make up the deficit that Gibraltar is today suffering,” the Gibraltar Government said in a statement.

“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has, nonetheless, already agreed to provide the following additional financial support measures for the catering sector, which arise from discussions with outgoing Catering Association chairman Gino Jimenez.”

There will be a moratorium on rent increases will be provided for the period from January 1, 2022 to March 31, 2022.

This will apply to Government commercial tenants as well as to private commercial tenants, a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.

This measure will be announced with retrospective effect and will now postpone any rent reviews to April 1, 2022.

In addition, rates for catering sector shall have their early payment discount increased by a further 25% for the first quarter of 2022, which means an effective discount of 75% for early payment of rates.

This will now be passed on to the second quarter of 2022.

The Department of Employment will continue to waive all registration fees, as it has done since the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020.

Minister for Business, Vijay Daryanani, said: “This further support package is aimed to mitigate some of the reduced business that the catering sector may have experienced following the Public Health Guidance issued on November 18, 2021.”

“The support follows direct engagement with the Gibraltar Catering Association earlier this year and was agreed by the Government last week and communicated to the Catering Association ahead of their statement today – although the Government understands that both may have crossed.”

“The Government has consistently assisted and supported the Catering Association throughout the entire pandemic.”

“We have repeatedly explained to the industry representatives, however, that the tax payer should support where absolutely necessary and not where potentially desirable.”

“This is precisely what Government is doing now.”

“I have been in direct contact with Gino Jimenez, the outgoing President of the Association, over the last two months so there is no question of the Catering Industry ‘being ignored’ as their statement of today unfairly states.”

“Finally, I take this opportunity to thank the Gibraltar Catering Association for their continued service to our community and contribution to our economy.”

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