‘Without the theatre the pier will struggle’ - how seaside town fared in the summer of lockdown
PUBLISHED: 10:56 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:56 17 September 2020
Cromer traders say they have enjoyed a bumper summer, but its famous pier and theatre has warned it could take five years for it to recover from the impact of coronavirus.
The summer of 2020 has presented the town’s vendors with a host of challenges as the country emerged from lockdown.
Francis Guildea, the general manager of Cromer Pier, said the summer had been a “constant challenge” because the Pavilion Theatre, which accounts for 70pc of the business, had been forced to close.
He said: “In terms of visitor numbers it’s been relatively kind in terms of weather, and if the weather is good the pier will always have significant footfall so the outlets which we have opened under the restrictions [have done] reasonably well.
“Obviously for my business, the theatre remains closed, it accounts for 70pc of our business and regardless of how many Mr Whippies we try and sell it doesn’t make up for the theatre business.
“The theatre and the pier is not just important for our business it has a very definite positive impact for every other business in the town.”
While other businesses in the town reported business had been strong in the weeks since they had been able to reopen, Mr Guildea said he was having to review things on a “week by week basis”.
He said: “Without the theatre the pier is always going to struggle. So my outlook is probably a little bit bleaker because my business [the theatre] hasn’t been able to reopen.”
He said while the theatre had been open for the Strictly Variety Show, Open Wide had donated the theatre to the production and was making no profit from the show.
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Mr Guildea said prior to 2020, Cromer Pier had experienced a run of three record breaking summers.
“This whole season has pulled the rug from underneath the business and I would guess it will take a minimum of five years to recover and that’s probably being really optimistic,” he said.
A short walk from Cromer Pier, Ben Kewell, the owner of Glide Surf Hire on the Esplanade, said his business had been busier than ever and initial concerns people would not be willing to spend had been proven wrong.
He said: “I thought the town would be busy but I thought people wouldn’t be spending money, but we’ve just seen the opposite really.
“It’s been a really positive season for the whole town, I speak to lots of other business owners and on the whole I do think a lot of people feel grateful. People have been brilliant, [they] have been really good, people have done their best to social distance, it’s been a really positive summer for the whole town.”
James Parkin, the owner of Golden Sands amusements in New Street, said he also felt positive about how the summer holidays had gone.
He said: “It’s not been too bad, it’s nice just to have people come in here. If you go off takings it’s not been too busy but we’re grateful for anything really.
“In a way we’re pleased because it was all unknown, we weren’t sure if we would be allowed open, would we get the people in and was it worth it.”
Sam Grout, owner of The Old Rock Shop Bistro and president of Cromer Chamber of Trade, said footfall in the town had been fantastic, which for many businesses had been a relief.
He said: “From a trader point of view it’s been fantastic... A lot of people were very unsure as to what the rest of the year would bring [after lockdown] and people have obviously been limited in how many people they can welcome.
“We hope the support [businesses have seen] continues for the quieter months. Cromer is very much turning into a year round destination so we’re expecting and continue to have visitors right round the year and hopefully that local support will see the majority of businesses if not all make it through.”
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