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Norwich cafe owner explains why ‘it isn’t viable’ to reopen on July 4

PUBLISHED: 18:57 29 June 2020 | UPDATED: 19:07 29 June 2020

Chris Dunn, owner of The Unthank Kitchen in Norwich, won't be reopening the cafe on July 4 as the premises is too small to keep customers two metres apart under social distancing measures Picture: Louisa Baldwin

Chris Dunn, owner of The Unthank Kitchen in Norwich, won't be reopening the cafe on July 4 as the premises is too small to keep customers two metres apart under social distancing measures Picture: Louisa Baldwin

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The Unthank Kitchen in Norwich is one of the many small businesses that will remain closed on July 4 as there simply isn’t the space to make social distancing work.

The inside dining area at The Unthank Kitchen Picture: Louisa BaldwinThe inside dining area at The Unthank Kitchen Picture: Louisa Baldwin

The cafe in Unthank Road is hugely popular in the area, particularly with the large student population, and serves a range of breakfasts.

It is run by trained chef Chris Dunn, 43, who opened the cafe in 2005 with his mum Jean, but he now runs it alone after buying it from her two years ago and he has four members of staff.

The cafe has remained closed since March 20 and Mr Dunn, who lives in Chedgrave, decided not to run a takeaway as staff wouldn’t have been able to keep two metres apart in the small kitchen.

He is faced with the same predicament now that the government has allowed the hospitality industry to open up from July 4 with social distancing measures in place.

Tables would need to be removed from the outside terrace if The Unthank Kitchen was to reopen while social distancing was still in place Picture: Louisa BaldwinTables would need to be removed from the outside terrace if The Unthank Kitchen was to reopen while social distancing was still in place Picture: Louisa Baldwin

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Many small business owners have been left in a Catch-22 situation where if they remove enough tables to adhere to the rules they won’t be able to cover costs.

Mr Dunn said: “Ideally I can’t open up with social distancing with the amount of tables I would have to lose and it just isn’t viable with the staff I’d need and the wages and bills to pay too.”

Although Mr Dunn has received a grant from the council this has just covered his rent and commercial bin collection so he has taken out a bounce back loan, introduced to help businesses struggling with impact of coronavirus.

The kitchen would be difficult to operate while adhering to social distancing Picture: Louisa BaldwinThe kitchen would be difficult to operate while adhering to social distancing Picture: Louisa Baldwin

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Mr Dunn added: “I’ve decided to reopen in August as I’m hoping it will be down to half a metre by then, but in any case it will be a struggle to build the business back up to where it left off.

“Small businesses have been left in the lurch a lot as I know the government is doing its best, but when I come back in August I’ve missed a quarter of the financial year which is a lot of money for me.”


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