This week, we hear from Peter Hitchin, Managing Director of Bombos cocktail bar and restaurant on Wyle Cop and the popular lounge bar and eatery The Alb on Smithfield Road. He writes…
Six hundred and seventeen years ago the shopkeepers of Shrewsbury were under threat as King Henry 1V rode out from Shrewsbury Castle to do battle with Henry ‘Hotspur’ at what we now call Battlefield.
We survived that and we will survive this. But it is going to be a very different threat this time! What is clearly forgotten, and certainly never mentioned by government, is that this comes so quickly on the heels of the floods which damaged every business in Shrewsbury.
Both of our venues had to close on March 20 initially meaning that 35 staff were ‘laid off’. The introduction of the furlough scheme has meant we have been able to keep a large number of them on the books ready for the re-opening.
The Government grants were a big bonus, but they did take some time to arrive. The COVID loans seemed like a good thing at first but in reality have been very difficult to access for businesses with a good financial basis, and extremely difficult for new or emerging ones.
We had the benefit of having an established takeaway side to both venues and we have been able to expand due to a big increase in demand. Of course the big question is where do we go when we are allowed to re-open.
Some serious ‘players’ in the trade are saying it will take nine months to get back to anywhere near where we were before. It is certain that bars and restaurants will be the last to re-open, and even then with serious social distancing rules in force.
This really flies in the face of what a pub or cocktail bar is all about. The thing we fear is that, although staff are currently getting some funds from the furlough scheme, this is set to end on July 1. We cannot see that there will be work for all of the people who were employed on March 20 again for some months.
With all this in mind we will develop the things we are currently doing, look to find anything else we think we can add no matter how diverse. Getting the word out will be the challenge, we have really good media systems but it will require even more and organisations such as supportshrewsbury.co.uk will be a great benefit.
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