IT was a dark day for the hospitality industry in England on Tuesday that may be a portent for worse to come for the sector across the UK.

The festive season was brought to a shuddering halt when several high-profile operators took to social media to announce the closure of their ventures.

Simon Rimmer, a household name thanks to hosting Sunday Brunch with Tim Lovejoy on Channel 4, posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, to break the news that Greens, his vegetarian restaurant in Didsbury, Manchester, was shutting down after 33 years.

Outlining the reasons for the closure, the chef said the restaurant’s landlord had increased its rent by around 35%, going on to state: “The cost of raw materials, the cost of heat, light, and power, employing people and general food costs have meant that the business unfortunately has become unviable, so with immediate effect we have unfortunately shut the door.

“It is a heart-breaking day.”

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Going on to thank the staff who worked at the restaurant over the years, its customers, suppliers, and neighbours, he added: “I can’t believe I am actually doing this message.”

Mr Rimmer’s post came around the same time that renowned chef Tony Rodd, a finalist in MasterChef 2015, revealed that the shutters had been brought down on Copper & Ink, the renowned restaurant he had run with wife Becky in Blackheath, London, for the last five years.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the immediate closure of Copper & Ink,” the operators stated on X.

“We have agonised over making this decision and spent much of the Christmas break trying desperately to find a way to save the restaurant, but to no avail.

“The decision to close is borne out of the continued financial difficulties caused by Covid, increased energy costs, the cost of living crisis, and price increases from all our suppliers that we have had to bear the brunt of for the last three years. All of which we know you felt too, which has resulted in less guests coming through our doors, making running a business untenable.”

Coming just days after chef James Allcock had announced the closure of The Pig & Whistle, his popular restaurant in Beverley, Yorkshire, on December 28, the demise of three businesses of such standing has rightly been seen as a significant blow for the hospitality industry in England.

It also sent shockwaves through the sector north of the Border, where trade groups have been warning that closures are on the cards following what they felt was a disappointing outcome from the Scottish Budget in December, and where operators are continuing to feel the impact of severe cost inflation.

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Indeed, the operator of a well-known pub in Edinburgh announced very shortly after Christmas that it would “remain closed until further notice”, and took a swipe at the SNP-Scottish Greens administration at Holyrood in the process.

The owner of The Auld Hoose on St Leonards Street, famed for its jukebox and “Edinburgh’s largest nachos”, cited the cost of living crisis and energy prices as the decision to close was explained. But there was also scathing criticism of the Scottish Government for its decision to not provide the 75% relief from business rates which is currently offered to firms in the hospitality, retail, and leisure sectors in England and Wales (up to a maximum of £110,000 per business).

Scottish Finance Secretary Shona Robison did retain the small business bonus scheme, introduce 100% rates relief for hospitality firms on the Scottish islands, and leave the basic business rates poundage, for premises up to and including a rateable value of £51,000, unchanged at 49.8p in the Scottish Budget.

But while it could be argued that this was the most that the Scottish Government could afford, given the pressure on the public finances and Ms Robison’s commitment to protecting investment in essential public services such as the NHS, this was not enough for many in the hospitality sector.

The Auld Hoose's owner said: “The cost of living crisis, surging utility costs, and food and drink inflation has made this small business challenging at best. Unfortunately the final straw has been the decision by the Scottish Government to not pass on the business rates relief that our friends in England enjoy.

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“As a long-standing member of the SNP I find their current stance on this matter extremely disappointing. What would seem to be an anti-business coalition with the Greens will put the final nail into the coffin of many small businesses such as mine.

“It is also worth pointing out that the UK has one of the highest VAT (value-added tax) rates on hospitality in Europe. We already knew that the UK Government does not care about hospitality, [it] seems Scot Gov is worse.”

With the ink now dry on the Scottish Budget, the opportunity for ministers to provide any further relief from business rates would appear to have gone for now. But, as concerns mount over the prospects for the hospitality industry during what is expected to be a quiet trading month, campaigners are stepping up calls for reform to the rates system.

Ms Robison pledged in her Budget statement to work with the Scottish Assessors to examine the methodology used to calculate business rates for hospitality, acknowledging a long-standing concern of the industry.

In the debate that followed the high-profile closures in England announced this week, the Scottish Hospitality Group has emphasised the need for a lower business rates poundage, and for a lower rate of VAT for hospitality, as it said on X that there was “now a need for hospitality to be taken seriously” by the UK and Scottish governments.

At a time when even experienced operators and celebrated chefs are struggling to make ends meet, these are surely proposals which merit serious consideration, at the very least, by ministers in Edinburgh and London.

Failure to do so will inevitably mean that Simon Rimmer, Tony and Becky Rodd, and James Allcock will not be the only respected industry figures taking to social media to announce the closure of their businesses in the weeks and months ahead.