Curry houses feel the chill as recession takes toll

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Leaders of Britain’s £3.6bn a year curry restaurant industry are the latest to call on the government to take urgent action to help them overcome an alarming fall in business.

They claim that many of the country’s 10,000-plus restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open after seeing a 35 to 40 per cent decline in trade this year. Several have already been forced to close.

Now they have written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne urging them to cut VAT in order to stimulate business.

British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali, who is also Chairman of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs, said: “Even a small reduction in the 20 per cent VAT rate on restaurant meals could make all the difference between restaurants surviving or going to the wall.

“Elsewhere in Europe, governments recognise the importance of their restaurant, hotels and tourist attractions by making tax concessions for them. In France, Belgium and Ireland, for example, the VAT rate has been lowered to just five per cent.

“We’re not expecting anything like that from our government, but a sensible reduction – even on a temporary basis – could encourage customers to start spending again. At the moment they’re being put off by knowing that £10 out of every £50 they spend in a restaurant is grabbed by the Chancellor without any benefit to them.”

Mr Ali, who was awarded an MBE in 2010 for his services to the curry restaurant industry, said that the only way many restaurants are managing to survive in the current economic climate is by cutting staff and juggling with payment to creditors.

He added: “The winners of the 2012 British Curry Awards – the crème de la crème of our industry – are due to be announced in London on 26 November, and it would provide a massive fillip for everyone concerned if, by then, the government has come up with some measures to help boost trade.

“Unless they do, I fear that many restaurants won’t be around when we hold the awards in 2013. Already some have fallen by the wayside. Lots of others are just about clinging on. Several in London have recently seen their customer base almost disappear completely as workers gave the City a wide berth during the Olympics.

“We need the government to act...and to do so soon.”