The temporary closure of his restaurants because of the UK Government advice on Coronavirus made the owner of Lunya write this touching Open Letter to the Prime Minister. Let’s get him to read it!
First published in March 2020.
Dear Prime Minister,
You won’t know me or Lunya. We are a small, family owned independent restaurant and deli in Liverpool and Manchester.
We have never sought, nor expected any help from the Government. Last week, we celebrated 10 years of being. We have rightly and gladly paid £7.1 million in tax over those 10 years.
Our 105 staff (most of whom have been from the EU – this is too good an opportunity to not make that point) have paid, additionally a sum about a quarter of that in PAYE and NI contributions.
Up until the end of February, times were tough. High Street spend has been down – especially in the eating out sector. This month, as the impact of Covid-19 takes hold, it is now not possible to trade.
We were really relieved to hear that the Government would do whatever it takes to support business. We will be saying yes to any loan you can offer. I think your strategy is to use employers as a means of distributing cash to employees even though they do not have the money for it, as the Government and DWP do not have the logistical means to do that.
At a most simple level, you do not even have the bank account details of our staff (and nor could the DWP or HMRC collect them with the structures and systems they have). We fully support you in that, even though it has not been made explicit.
A loan will come with liabilities and expectations of repayment. We were already struggling before this (but just about managing), we will never be able to repay that loan, no matter how successful we are in any post-Covid world.
I am 56, and know the economic reality I am in and likely to be for probably the rest on my working life. I accept that. We went into business knowing that and being fully prepared to take those risks: of losing our house, everything we own, of the feelings of failure that will go with that, that we’ll take to our grave. But I have no regrets about anything we have done.
We have made major contributions to the economy and brought an awful lot of joy to many people.
We will not be using the loan to pay our landlords; the people who work for our landlords agents are nearly all lovely people. Our landlords are mostly profoundly super-rich people (unbelievably rich, the richest man in Britain, who have so many houses already through their wealth, than ironically, I have in giant red prawns (we still have over 1,000 of those in our freezer). It is a sacrifice too far to ask me to use a loan to pay them when I will lose my one house. They can lose some of theirs, if that is the outcome. However, I cannot it in find myself to do.
Every month, we will need about £110,000 just to pay our staff. We know we will be closed for at least 3 months, in all likelihood, we expect it to be longer or to have to reopen and close again.
Whatever the total is, we will never be able to pay it back. The only thing I ask you is that whatever decisions you make, never allow the significantly or uber-wealthy to gain from this, and in a request of self-interest, that you offer me and Elaine, my wife, some protection from losing our house; even though it is all secured to protect RBS and HSBC, we need the protection more than them.
I am crying (sometimes uncontrollably) writing this. I am terrified and so worried.
Most of all, I am deeply ashamed.
Ashamed that I don’t have the time to be as worried about my 86 and 88-year-old parents, who are hugely at risk.
Ashamed that I don’t have the time to be as worried about Elaine who has her second biopsy for Thyroid cancer tomorrow.
I know they are both out of control, but I have to express that.
I have done everything I can think of to preserve our future ability to pay taxes (which we are so going to need) to keep 105 staff in employment, but it isn’t enough.
But I now need more time to be with, care for and think about my loved ones, without ever diminishing my determination to keep Lunya going.
You will probably never see this, but it has made me feel a little bit better, even though, I can’t stop crying.
Owner of Lunya