Businesses ‘bid for survival’ as curfew and fines brought in
PUBLISHED: 08:07 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:34 23 September 2020
Norfolk’s hospitality sector has refused to be shaken by Boris Johnson’s announcement – saying they will adapt to whatever measures the government sees fit to beat the coronavirus.
The prime minister announced a raft of new measures yesterday, including a nationwide 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses, as well as potential fines for those which are not abiding by the rules.
But businesses have rolled up their sleeves and said that moving with the times is their only chance to make it through the pandemic. Glen Sarabi, manager of Truth, Mantra and Fetch, in Norwich’s Prince of Wales Road, as well as Bond, in Tombland, said: “This is our bid for survival. Many businesses will look at this announcement and crumble but we have invested too much time and effort into our business not to try. Our customers have also invested so much in us that we refuse to let them down.
“We will be doing what we can to give students a freshers week in a coronavirus-secure way. It’s a rite of passage. The student population has always been hugely supportive of us so we will bend over backwards to try and give them some sort of freshers experience.
“We’re looking at launching a happy hour and other student offerings as well as takeaway food and drink.”
The team have also changed their opening hours, with Fetch and Truth now opening from 5pm until 10pm, and Bond opening from 2pm until 10pm given its different client base.
Truth has only opened in recent months after the bar – which was previously the ground floor of Mantra – had a revamp.
Management spread out the tables for social distancing as well as putting in outdoor drinking pods complete with phone charging stations.
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“We obviously want to keep our staff and customers as safe as possible and we will continue to do that, but we cannot take this lying down. We need to adapt to the normal – particularly if it’s going to last as long as six months,” he added.
The same went for restaurants, which could face fines if they do not comply with government regulations – though owners said they had nothing to fear. Richard Bainbridge, the owner and chef of Benedict’s in Norwich’s St Benedicts Street, said: “I welcome this news. We’ve always been really proactive when it comes to safety so I don’t feel like we have anything to worry about.
“I have seen other businesses who aren’t as Covid-secure as us and I think this will make sure that everyone’s doing their bit.”
His thoughts were echoed by Stephen Hutton, the managing director of Middletons, which has steak restaurants in Norwich and King’s Lynn, as well as five others across the East of England.
He said: “I think it’s a good thing. The government has given us some clear guidance that the doors need to be closed by 10pm so that sets an expectation of both businesses and the public.
“If businesses are being fined because the rules are unclear that could be a problem but if everyone knows what’s expected to keep the staff and public safe then no one has anything to fear.”
Bosses at Greene King, which runs pubs across Norfolk and has its head office in Bury St Edmunds, were concerned about jobs.
Nick Mackenzie, Greene King chief executive, said: “Pubs are just starting to get back on their feet after lockdown and these new restrictions are a significant setback. We urgently need the government to extend the furlough scheme for hospitality venues and confirm what additional support it will provide to protect jobs and the future of pubs.”
But whether the curfew will lead to a fall in demand during opening hours remains to be seen. Stefan Gurney, the chief executive of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said fears over the virus’ spread are being added to by confused messaging from Downing Street. “Footfall in Norwich has been rising in recent weeks and we haven’t seen any drop off - which would allude to a fall in confidence. I think what will cause a fall is the potential closure of offices but that remains to be seen. Moving forward we need clear messaging and rules so that the public and businesses alike know what is expected,” he said.
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