A FARNHAM wine bar and restaurant owner says his businesses are running at “70 per cent capacity” because of staffing shortages, and fears the return to a standard 20 per cent VAT rate could drive many hospitality businesses out of business.

David Quick, owner of Borelli’s Wine Bar and Veena’s Kitchen, wrote to South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt last week pleading for him to “wake our chancellor up” to the struggles faced by those working in the hospitality and leisure sector.

It comes after VAT increased from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent, the standard rate before the pandemic, on April 1, with business rates relief also coming to an end for most businesses on the same date.

Mr Quick wrote: “Can you do anything to wake our chancellor up and make him realise that hospitality and many leisure industries are still reeling from the massive trade losses due to Covid over the past two years?

“In addition to that, because of Brexit the industry is on its knees, finding it impossible to trade all week because of massive staff shortages, some businesses closing three days a week, my own two businesses two days a week!

“Currently there are 130,000 chef and management vacancies impossible to fill.

“My businesses are trading at 70 per cent capacity because of current staff shortages we are unable to fill, even offering highly-inflated salary packages.

“This is absolutely not the time to put VAT back to 20 per cent or bring back business rates at least for another year.”

Mr Quick added the struggle faced by developer Crest Nicholson to fill up units at its Brightwell Yard development in Farnham is another indicator of the problems faced by high-street businesses.

He continued: “Have you seen the increasing number of empty retail units in Farnham? Also Brightwells Yard, now nearly fully built, has only three tenants signed up out of 40 retail units.

“As you know I have always stipulated this project is far too big for the town. Woking is also suffering the same fate!

“These are all clear indicators we are massively going in the wrong direction and action needs to be taken now.”