V OR V: Award-winning Sheffield restaurant says 'we've been forgotten completely' as it prepares to close
The boss of an award-winning Sheffield restaurant which is closing down says he feels the hospitality industry has been 'forgotten completely'.
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V OR V in Kelham Island, which has picked up numerous accolades since opening in 2019, announced last week that the popular vegan and vegetarian restaurant would be shutting for good on Sunday, December 17.
Its co-founder Matt Burgess has now spoken to The Star about the crippling pressures which forced it under and which he fears could account for many more bars, restaurants and cafes.
'It doesn't make sense to keep going'
He said: "People like us have put so much work, so much money and so much time into building up our businesses and we know we have a good thing here but in all honesty the way the last couple of months have been, with the battles we've faced, it doesn't make sense to keep going.
"The hospitality industry is such an important part of life but there's been very little support. The Government said it supported us during Covid but I don't think they did enough, and since then, with the cost of living crisis, it feels like we've been forgotten completely."
Matt described how he and his brother Nick, with whom he launched the restaurant, had been running bars and restaurants for 15 years.
"Unless you're involved in the trade you have no idea how much work it takes on a day to day basis to run a business which has a good offering and gives something to the people in your community," he said.
"It's not just us. There are some really good restaurants and other businesses like bakeries which are closing because of the lack of support."
Matt said one of the biggest challenges was the VAT bills. The rates for the hospitality industry were briefly lowered to five per cent during Covid before quickly returning to 20 per cent.
'Horrendous' amount of money spent on Container Park attraction
He said it was hard for established firms to watch as money is spent on new developments in and around Sheffield, while the businesses which are already in place are crying out for help.
Pushed on which developments he meant, he cited the disastrous Container Park scheme at the top of Fargate, which was plagued by problems and ended up costing around £600,000 despite never fully opening and only being in place for a few months.
"That's a horrendous amount of money spent on something that was never going to get anywhere," said Matt. "I think all the businesses that are closing because they can't afford their VAT bills will look at that and think that amount of money could have paid half the VAT bill for around 30 businesses for a whole year.
"They're trying to put money into hospitality to develop Sheffield but there are good businesses already here which are falling by the wayside. Why can't that money be spent on us."
The Container Park was paid for using money from the Government's Get Building Fund, which Sheffield City Council could not have spent supporting existing businesses with their bills. But, for struggling restaurants, cafes and bars watching what's happening, it was still a vast amount of public money ultimately going to waste.
V OR V's future plans, including festivals and other events
Although V OR V is closing its restaurant, the catering and events side of the business will continue and Matt said they hoped to be back at festivals like Tramlines next summer, hopefully with some better weather.
"We've lost the restaurant and the majority of my chefs so we need to sit down and work out how exactly it's going to work, but we're hoping to do more food festivals, music festivals, corporate events and wedding," he said.
"The outside catering offering we have is fantastic, with healthy fast food like loaded potatoes and vegetable kebabs, and pretty much every event we did this year we're hoping to be back at in 2024.
"We've had probably 20 requests for weddings in the next year but at the moment we're not in a position to give a firm answer so unfortunately we've had to tell people to look elsewhere, which is a bit of a bugger."
Matt said the response from customers and other businesses since V OR V announced the restaurant was closing had been 'incredible'.
"The next few weeks are chock-a-block with bookings and it will be a nice way to finish something that's been appreciated quite a lot," he added.