Latvian caterers go potty over government policy

Owners of bars and restaurants have come up with a new way of protesting what they claim are unfair government policies.

In something like the traditional manner for prison inmates to protest their lving conditions, the Latvian Association of Restaurants (Latvijas Restorānu biedrība, LRB) has launched a nation-wide protest campaign, using the hashtag #KatluRevolūcija (#PotRevolution - the pot in question not being the type, possession of which might well find yourself behind bars of the non-catering kind)

"From 25 May onwards, at 18.00, everyone is welcome to protest against the governmental policies by loudly banging pots and pans!" said the LRB in a release.

“We are starting a #PotRevolution for those 40 per cent of the Latvian population who live in poverty, for those 100 thousand teachers and doctors let down by the government even during the Covid-19 crisis. It is for all the creative professionals, and small and medium enterprises, among them 30 thousand workers of the catering industry, who have been scorned by the politicians and have received only crumbs of the promised support pie of 4 billion euros,” said Lauris Aleksejevs, Vice-president of LRB and co-owner of the restaurant, 36. līnija.

"Everyone who feels being let down by the government and thinks society must demonstrate its frustration is welcome to join in. The politicians are simmering in their own pot and have totally forgotten about their promises. So let’s use pots and pans to remind them loudly and clearly about the promised salary raise for teachers and doctors, and the promise to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate for restaurants and catering services!” said Aleksejevs.

One of the aims of the campaign is to again raise the issue of VAT rate reduction for catering services and restaurants.

“The restaurant and catering business is not about luxury, it is a socially and culturally important segment of our economy. This is where our children often gain their first work experience and learn responsible business practices,” said Jānis Pinnis, President of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Latvia.

Campaigners point out that in 19 out of 28 European Union member states, reduced VAT rates currently apply to the hospitality industry. Many countries, among them Estonia and Lithuania, have introduced additional support measures to help the industry recover from the Covid-19 crisis. According to the LRB estimates, a reduction of the VAT rate would help save 4000 jobs this year.

“Latvian politicians and bureaucrats think that they can cheat and deceive the people whose taxes make their salaries. We say it will not do! If these politicians can’t keep their promises, next time we will vote for those who can!” said Mārtiņš Sirmais, one of the country's best-known chefs and co-owner of the 3 Pavāri restaurant,

According to the State Revenue Service data, over 2,400 restaurants and catering companies operate in Latvia, employing about 30 thousand people and paying over 125 million euros in taxes annually. The tourism sector as a whole accounts for around 5 per cent of Latvian GDP.

 

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