'So sad to see our café empty' - owner's anger at tier rules

Lynda Clarke at the Un Café near Beeston.

Lynda Clarke at the Un Café near Beeston. - Credit: Lynda Clarke

Cafés, restaurants and pubs have had a hugely challenging year. Lynda Clarke, who owns Un Café on North Walsham Road, in Beeston St Andrew, has spoken about the damaging impact on our local businesses.

"As a café/coffee shop owner, I have concerns about the future of our small business given the Tier Two restrictions and the support given by the government.

"During the first lock down we were not eligible for the government grant because we weren't the rate payer, even though we are a registered business, have a lease, have done our tax returns and so on.

"We eventually got one of the extra grants made available, however this was much less than the grant that we would have been eligible for if we were the rate payer. The grant given just covered our losses, our fixed costs and our re-start up costs.

It's so sad to see our lovely café empty of customers

Inside the Un Cafe on North Walsham Road in Beeston St Andrew. - Credit: Lynda Clarke

"Again we are now in the same situation. Government grants are only available to the rate payer and the additional restriction grant is much smaller than the other one. My question is: Why is there a difference? We had to close, we had no option. Our fixed costs, lack of profit etc is the same as any rate payers.

"Now we are in Tier Two. This is so restricted for us that after a short time of being open it looks like we will be forced to close again until we go into Tier One, again losing our income.

"We have tried our best to adhere to all the government guidelines including increasing our staff to accommodate table service, therefore affecting any profits that we should be making.

"Now that people can only meet in family groups it has had major implications to our custom. Most of our customers are those that come to meet friends. Ladies that lunch, mums who meet friends for coffee and cake, older couples who come in to meet other couples.

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"We are known as a great place to meet up and have a catch up. So, again, my question is what is the logic behind people not being able to meet up in a safe environment, one that has followed all the government guidelines to keep our cafe Covid safe? 

Outside the Un Café on North Walsham Road.

Outside the Un Café on North Walsham Road. - Credit: Lynda Clarke

"Why is it that people can go shopping, go into the city and mix, go to the gym, have their hair done, have people in their house to do maintenance (all in one day possibly), but to accommodate four friends wanting a coffee and a catch up we would have to give them all separate tables? It doesn't make sense.

"It's so sad to see our lovely café empty of customers. If the restrictions made sense I would be behind them, if the support was fair then I would respect it but it isn't and our business is in danger because of it.

"I think these discrepancies need some acknowledgement and some change in government to rethink if small businesses like ours are to survive this pandemic."

What does the government say?

A spokesperson for the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said they understood the strain placed on hospitality businesses and said current restrictions were vital.

“We have acted quickly to support businesses including by providing all local authorities in England a share of £1.1bn to provide discretionary grants to local businesses that have not been required to close, but are still severely impacted," they said.

"This is just part of one of the most extensive packages of financial support in the world worth £280bn, including the extension of the furlough scheme, various loan schemes, and VAT deferrals to help business through this period."

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