THE owner of a landmark Glasgow restaurant says the furlough scheme should have been left in place to safeguard hospitality operators and staff from “disaster”, while voicing his belief the Omicron variant’s surge could trigger renewed lockdown.
Marco Giannasi, who owns and runs the Battlefield Rest on the city’s south side with his wife Yellena, said: “The furlough scheme should have been always…a formula in case another situation like this would arise. That is the only thing that safeguards employers and employees from a disaster.”
He added: “It should have remained, subject to in the future another case will happen, we will go back to furlough. There would have been a formula we would have used [so] everybody had peace of mind.”
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Mr Giannasi had tweeted early yesterday morning: “Deja vu! I feel we are getting closer to another Lockdown, I may be wrong however all signs are dragging us towards it.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reintroduce furlough support or enable devolved administrations to do so.
Mr Giannasi told The Herald yesterday: “That is the enigma – is it going to happen, furlough? There is whispers. There is talk. It may happen then everybody may be a little bit more relaxed.”
He added: “A week before Christmas, there is this unknown again. Furlough should definitely have remained there as a back-up.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak ignored appeals from various quarters and ended the UK taxpayer-funded coronavirus job retention scheme, which provided furlough support, at the end of September.
Mr Giannasi said: “It doesn’t need a mastermind to know if you close you need funds from somewhere. I hope the Government are competent enough to know that.”
He also highlighted difficulties for operators in having to react repeatedly to major changes in government regulations and guidance issued at short notice.
Mr Giannasi flagged challenges for customers as well as operators in understanding rapidly changing regulations and guidance related to coronavirus, and highlighted the fact these were different across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and elsewhere in Europe.
He said: “Is everyone writing their own minds? Why can you not do a united position for everyone to follow?”
Mr Giannasi revealed the restaurant had received cancellations of bookings for at least 150 customers in the week since Public Health Scotland urged people to cancel their Christmas parties.
While noting he was able to fill some of these spaces with walk-in bookings, he estimated the number of lost customers for hotels with big function suites would run into thousands.
Mr Giannasi said: “I would prefer to be shut down for three weeks…than dribs and drabs.
“It would have been better to say, ‘we are going to close for three weeks – clear the virus out’. That is the phase. In hiccups, you cannot plan.”
He had tweeted on Wednesday: “We are now walking in unknown territory where at any moment…our journey could take us on a different destination! The new guidelines for Hospitality is very unclear and worrying!”
Mr Giannasi said the new provisions for restaurants being introduced by the Scottish Government to tackle the Omicron surge would mean his capacity would be reduced to between 40 and 45, from 60 to 65 currently.
He flagged logistical challenges in adapting the set-up of the restaurant overnight, for distancing measures and to put in place screens, as well as the issue of how to deal with having taken bookings based on the capacity having been greater at that time.
Mr Giannasi also highlighted the major impact on food and drink suppliers of the latest difficulties in the hospitality sector.
He said: “Suppliers of food and drink – they are in the background but they are getting massively affected by all of this.”
Mr Giannasi, who founded the Battlefield Rest in 1994, was last month presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Italian Awards.