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‘It will be hard’- town’s businesses reveal future under social distancing

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 May 2020

The Downham Tandoori restaurant is open for takeaway and has social distancing measures in place. Picture: Downham Tandoori

The Downham Tandoori restaurant is open for takeaway and has social distancing measures in place. Picture: Downham Tandoori

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Restaurant capacity will be halved, cafes will stay shut and social distancing will turn businesses upside down.

Cancellations of events such as weddings, parties and shows has meant entertainment company J R Light and Sound has been hit dramatically by Covid-19. Picture: Jamie Robinson Cancellations of events such as weddings, parties and shows has meant entertainment company J R Light and Sound has been hit dramatically by Covid-19. Picture: Jamie Robinson

Those are the feelings of business owners in Downham Market, as they wrestle with an uncertain future in the grip of Covid-19.

KniCat Bakery Ltd closed its cafe but remained open for takeaway in response to the coronavirus pandemic as it dealt with more people turning to them for products.

Susan Gooding-Lewis, manager, said: “Do I think business will go back to normal? At the moment I don’t see it as I think this awful virus is here for a while.

“I would like to think as well that all the new customers will continue to support us if and when things do go back to normal.

Sally Gooding (left), Kelly Dent, Suzan Gooding-Lewis (centre), Carol McCumun, Janine McPherson. Taken prior to lockdown. Picture: Sarah HussainSally Gooding (left), Kelly Dent, Suzan Gooding-Lewis (centre), Carol McCumun, Janine McPherson. Taken prior to lockdown. Picture: Sarah Hussain

“For the foreseeable future we have no plans to open the cafe side as yet, it would make it harder to control the two metre distance.”
She added that she was worried the virus could hit again but will continue to maintain the social distancing guidelines in the shop until advice says otherwise and “everyone feels happy and safe.”

The bakery is selling products such as flour, eggs, potatoes, strawberries and icing sugar to make use of the empty cafe space.

Owner of Downham Tandoori, Ali Anwar, closed his restaurant as a result of lockdown measures in March but has since reopened for takeaways with social distancing measures in place, with hopes he can reopen for dining by Saturday, July 4.

He said: “I think when we do open, it will be hard as we’ll have to get rid of a lot of seats so that social distancing can still be maintained.

KniCat Bakery in Downham Market has seen an increase in customers as a result of the crisis. Picture: Sarah HussainKniCat Bakery in Downham Market has seen an increase in customers as a result of the crisis. Picture: Sarah Hussain

“If we are roughly speaking on how many seats would have to be removed, it will most likely be around half our capacity.”

The owner said they were considering delivering as an option to keep business going.

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“This is definitely something we are considering a lot, especially with how everything in the world has panned out,” he added.

Downham Tandoori has been donating meals to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and vulnerable people in the local community. Picture: Downham TandooriDownham Tandoori has been donating meals to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and vulnerable people in the local community. Picture: Downham Tandoori

Despite business struggles he said the restaurant will not fully reopen until it is safe for both the staff and public.

J R Light & Sound has also had to adapt to the way it operates, with staff all working from home.

Owner Jamie Robinson said Covid-19 has hit his business dramatically as the events and social gatherings it relies on have been cancelled.

He said: “We supply entertainment and services for social gatherings such as parties, weddings, theatre and dance shows, school shows, outdoor sporting events and village fetes and carnivals.

The Downham Tandoori restaurant is open for takeaway and has social distancing measures in place. Picture: Downham TandooriThe Downham Tandoori restaurant is open for takeaway and has social distancing measures in place. Picture: Downham Tandoori

“Even though we have no work on, myself and the team are still hard at work doing quotes for new projects as well as doing maintenance on all of our equipment.

“Clients for this year have been in touch with us and some unfortunately have had to cancel due to the type of event, however lots of our parties and wedding have been rescheduled to a new dates for next year.

“When we get up and running again providing our services for these events, we intend to follow the government guidelines to the best of our ability to keep our team safe.

“I look forward to the return of providing my services for events and hopefully it will return bigger and better than before.

Chefs and waiters at the Downham Tandoori. Taken prior to lockdown. Picture: Sarah HussainChefs and waiters at the Downham Tandoori. Taken prior to lockdown. Picture: Sarah Hussain

“I hope all the business that have been affected are able to stay afloat and safe as I know many of them in my industry and outside of it have been affected.”

The company also launched a light up project on Thursday, May 14 which saw St Mary’s Church in Denver lit up with messages of appreciation for the NHS and key workers.

Mr Robinson and his team plan to light up another west Norfolk church on Thursday, in line with the clap for carers event.


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