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‘Unfortunate timing’ - business owner describes challenge of taking on bistro weeks before lockdown

PUBLISHED: 16:17 14 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:59 15 April 2020

Brendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan Gray

Brendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan Gray

Archant

When Brendan Gray became the new owner of a popular Norfolk bistro, he had no idea just how difficult his first few months of trading was going to be.

Mr Gray reopened the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28 after he took over from husband and wife team Simon and Kate Leeder, who stepped down after the workload became too much.

Little did he know, less than a month later the UK would be put into lockdown as a measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus – something which Mr Gray described as “difficult to take”.

He said: “I’ve invested everything I had into this and we opened at the end of February but three weeks in we had to shut down again.

“It’s my first business and this was a big leap for me, so it wasn’t the start I would’ve wanted.

Brendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan GrayBrendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan Gray

“I’ve managed a few local businesses before but this is the first time I’ve owned one. It’s always been a dream of mine – it’s just unfortunate timing.”

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But despite the sizeable setback, Mr Gray is “staying positive” and is continuing to pay staff out of his own pocket, with the help of the Small Business Grant Fund managed by local authorities.

READ MORE: From canapés to a hospital canteen – the restaurant owner doing her bit for the NHS

The bistro remains closed, but they have been operating a takeaway service on Saturdays and Sundays “to try to help the local community”, while a recent burger night proved to be a success.

Brendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan GrayBrendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan Gray

Mr Gray said: “We sold out within three hours, and we’re looking at doing it again if we can before the end of April.”

And while the bistro has been closed, he has taken the opportunity to work on new menus as well as redecorate and refurbish the eatery ready to welcome customers for when he is allowed to open the doors once again.

READ MORE: How farm shops are coping with lockdown sales surge

“It’s a good time to put my own stamp on the place, so we’ve been redecorating and moving some things around.

“We’re also looking at expanding our menus to include more vegan-friendly and gluten-free options to cater for more people and their diets.

Brendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan GrayBrendan Gray took over the Station Bistro at Wymondham rail station on February 28, less than a month before the coronavirus lockdown forced him to close down again. Picture: Brendan Gray

“I’m just looking forward to being able to get going again once this is all over.”


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