'We'll hobble through' - restaurants face lockdown with resolve
- Credit: Archant
Weary restaurateurs are facing the next few weeks of lockdown with resolve, as they focus on the hope of a brighter spring.
That is set to continue under lockdown, but with no clear end in sight, and hints that it may continue until March, they are facing a difficult stretch ahead.
With January and February traditionally quieter times for the industry, many will feel the impact of missing Valentine's Day - but will keep fingers crossed that they can open in some form for Mother's Day, a typically busy day.
Hannah Springham, of the Dial House in Reepham and Farmyard in Norwich, is feeling positive, particularly after funding to support the industry was announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.
"It feels a lot less stressful than it did last time," she said. "We know we are furloughing staff, Rishi has already come up with a grant.
"We are a relatively small business and it's brilliant that we will get £6,000. It is difficult but we expected this and we will hobble through."
Among their reasons to keep positive are their frozen meals, which have proven so popular they are now exploring retail options.
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Over the next few weeks, they won't be offering takeaways at the Dial House, but will do so at Farmyard.
"There is hope in sight," she said.
Jeannette Goodrich, owner of The Rose and Crown in Snettisham, said lockdown made little difference from a trading point of view when compared to Tier 4, but that national measures eliminated uncertainty about what is allowed.
"Given the current pandemic figures, declaring a lockdown is probably the right thing to do. We had sort of expected this third lockdown after the rule relaxation over Christmas so it was not a surprise, but of course very disappointing to have to be shut for Christmas Day and for Boxing Day, normally one of the busiest days of the year, with lots of households and families looking for some comfort food after a long walk - or even swim - on the beach and good cheer."
She said it was unlikely they would reopen again before March, with Easter seeming more feasible.
Previously they have operated a takeaway service and in November introduced a small shop selling baked goods, fruit and vegetables and household goods, but Mrs Goodrich said while it helped them keep in touch with their "tremendously supportive" customers, it had barely covered costs. They will consider restarting both when the weather improves.
And Ben Handley, of the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, said: "We absolutely agree that lockdown was the right thing to do, the safety of the public must always come first. We hope this shall be the last lockdown, as the vaccines are being rolled out, so we hope that we can hit the ground running when we reopen in the spring time and enjoy a fantastic summer without the threat of further closures."
He said they would spend the coming weeks taking stock and riding the crisis out, and said the cycle of opening and closing and offering takeaways was impossible to sustain.
But he has still been keeping busy.
"I have also been writing my first book, which has given me so much excitement and reignited my passion for food and people," he said. "I just can’t wait to get starter again, play with food and meet our wonderful staff and customers once more. “
Stefano Lucchesi, who opened The Bridge restaurant on Fye Bridge Street in Norwich in October, said he was keeping positive amid the difficulty, but was aware the restaurant was still new to the city.
He said they were staying hard at work, offering three takeaway menus over the next few weeks, which can be collected from the Tuscan restaurant.
The Assembly House, in Norwich, will be reopening its posh drive-through later this month, offering afternoon teas, upmarket ready meals and more.
It announced the news with a message of positivity, encouraging people to "set our sights" on spring and stay cheerful.
Many restaurants, fed up of the Tier 2 rules Norfolk was under in December, had already decided to close their doors into the new year until the situation improved.
Some, including a handful in west Norfolk, have also offered their restaurants to the government as vaccination centres.
Michael Baldwin, of the Bank House and The Wenns Chop and Ale House, both in King's Lynn, said: "We have offered ourselves up as a Covid vaccination station should we be required and are delighted to see other local venues have since done the same."
He said they were looking to offer a Valentine's takeaway next month but were assessing all options.