Heat is on for Cheltenham curry houses
DIFFICULT trading conditions have turned up the heat on Cheltenham's curry houses.
Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurant owners in the town said they were having to cope with a significant fall in business over the past year.
Trade has declined by 35 to 40 per cent at some venues.
Worried curry house bosses have urged the Government to slash VAT in order to give ailing businesses a boost.
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Mohammed Rahman, who runs The Spice Lodge, in Montpellier Drive, said trading conditions were the toughest they had been for years.
He said: "It is very tough at the moment for curry restaurants and for restaurants in general at the moment.
"The fact is that people have less money at their disposal so are not able to eat out as often.
"A lot of restaurant owners are worried about how to cope with the situation.
"One option some have looked at is reducing the number of staff, but then you can't maintain the level of service so that is a risk too.
"Small businesses especially are the ones being affected."
He said a rise in VAT and high business rates had piled on the misery for the town's restaurateurs struggling to weather the storm.
He added: "We have had to cope with VAT going up from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent but we can't put prices up as that wouldn't be fair on customers.
"We want the Government to look at this because people need all the help they can get.
"We also want councils to look at lowering business rates because that is another cost on top of everything else.
"Cheltenham is renowned for its curry restaurants and for eating out in general. We want to keep it that way."
Leaders of Britain's £3.6 billion a year curry industry have written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne urging them to cut VAT to stimulate business.
British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali, 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. It could encourage customers to start spending again. We need the Government to act and to do so soon."