'A buzz in the air' - City independents see roadmap to brighter days

Owner Alan Sabol at the St Giles Pantry, a coffee shop with local produce for sale. Picture: DENISE

Owner Alan Sabol at the St Giles Pantry, a coffee shop with local produce for sale. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Norwich businesses are feeling optimistic about the future as Boris Johnson's lockdown roadmap offers some light at the end of the tunnel.

This paper went to see businesses earlier this month, as some independents were able to continue trading through takeaways, as well as click and collect services during lockdown.

Weeks later - and with Boris Johnson's roadmap laid out and an expected return for outdoor hospitality on April 12 - we went back to see how they are feeling now.

Isabel Brentnall, general manager of Bread Source, an artisan bakery based in Norwich, said: "From our point of view, it is a good starting point having set dates for planning and it offers hope for the business in general.

People queue at the Bread Source in Upper St Giles Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

People queue at the Bread Source in Upper St Giles Street. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"We have been quite lucky that we were able to adapt all our shops pretty quickly and we got into a routine." 

Planning is now underway as to how Bread Source and other independents will be able to fully reopen, with many businesses continuing with a cautious approach with regards to making use of outdoor seating and safety measures. 


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Christian Motta, co-owner of the Grosvenor Fish Bar on Lower Goat Lane, said: "It's still out there (Covid-19) and I think it is still difficult to predict.

The Grosvenor Fish Bar is hoping to reopen its restaurant and get a licence to serve alcohol. Pic: E

The Grosvenor Fish Bar - Credit: Archant

"Nobody really knows what will happen and it is a hard one to judge so we will still err on the side of caution. We will serve outside for as long as necessary." 

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Mr Motta added: "People have to open up again or it will be dire out there. We have noticed there are a lot more people around with the weather improving so we are looking forward to getting back to normality."

Christian Motta, co owner at the Grosvenor Fish Bar, doing well on deliveries and serving at the doo

Christian Motta, co-owner at the Grosvenor Fish Bar, is doing well on deliveries and serving at the door - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Alan Sabol, owner of the St Giles Pantry, is feeling optimistic after the Prime Minister's announcement and is lining up a batch of new products. 

He said: "We are very excited and can't wait to open up fully again. As well as looking after our suppliers, we can't wait to get back to some sense of normality. 

"There seems to be a buzz in the air and everyone has got an extra spring in their step. 

Owner Alan Sabol at the St Giles Pantry, a coffee shop with local produce for sale. Picture: DENISE

Owner Alan Sabol at the St Giles Pantry, a coffee shop with local produce for sale. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

"If anything, I think it will be busier than normal levels because people are like a coiled spring, just waiting to enjoy life and all the pleasures of life.

"People want to be able to get out, make plans, socialise, eat good food and get back to normal. Life is too short." 

Samia King, owner of the Moorish Falafel Bar on Lower Goat Lane, has seen a good level of takeaway orders during lockdown, but is not happy with the dates announced by the Government. 

Samia King, left, owner, and Aliya Vadillo, working at Moorish falafel bar. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Samia King, left, owner, and Aliya Vadillo, working at Moorish falafel bar. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She said: "I was hoping the restrictions would be lifted sooner more for the sake of my neighbours who can't do takeaway and the retail that will drive people to businesses like mine.

"People don't just come into the city to shop but to eat as well. I am a bit disappointed the restrictions won't be lifted sooner for the sake of retail that has not been able to stay open. 

"I just think it is unfair for little independent shops that big supermarkets and big chains stay open and are doing a roaring trade as they are seen as being essential. It is actually the little shops which will go under and need to open soon.

"Norwich is very independent and these places are what makes the city amazing." 

Despite lockdown easing and presenting the opportunity to travel and book a holiday, that is not on the minds of local business owners. 

Mr Motta said: "We have had enough rest so I think it is going to be full on when we open the restaurant.

"Hopefully I will get a holiday at Christmas but I am going to plod on, especially with the weather being good." 

Miss King added: "Everyone has been very desperate to have some kind of holiday. I have been saying to my staff they need to give me as much notice as possible for the next six to eight months.

"We want to be doing our best to bring in as much income to the shop and need everyone on board, but at the same time I understand everyone wants a holiday.

I will be focusing solely on the business for six months and maybe have a rest in the autumn."

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