'It's a nail in the coffin'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 10th August 2020

Can hospitality businesses survive local lockdowns as coronavirus spikes hit?

After national lockdowns swept the world - with some still ongoing - governments are continuing to tackle the virus by implementing localised lockdowns. 

After Leicester, Preston, East Lancashire, Greater Manchester and parts of west Yorkshire, Nicola Sturgeon ordered the closure of all hospitality businesses excluding takeaways for at least seven days as of Wednesday, 5th August. Yesterday, it was extended for another seven days.

With immediate effect

Within twelve hours of her announcement, the Newmachar Hotel, located in the outskirts of the Aberdeenshire, voluntarily closed its doors.

"If the coronavirus is in Aberdeen," said head chef Graham Mitchell, "it's going to reach us. So for the safety of our staff - and to avoid getting on the list of bars and restaurants that have had cases - we just did it." 

While the team will continue to prepare takeaways, the chef said there was "no chance" of their making up for lost income from the closure. 

"I'm a bit worried at the moment," he said, adding that if cases continue to rise, "she [Nichola Sturgeon] might put us further into lockdown."  

The decision felt counter nature, as, he explained, it is not for a lack of demand: "We've been fully booked everyday, we've done more covers everyday than what we were doing before we went into lockdown." 

The reality up and down the country is stark. With so many restaurants already in dire straights, he added:

"It's a nail in the coffin. After lockdown, a lot of businesses in Aberdeen haven't reopened." 

"I can see another pile of businesses not being able to reopen now." 

Will the rest of Scotland be hit?

Peter McKenna, chef and owner of The Gannet in Glasgow, was set to reopen a full restaurant on Wednesday 12th August - but was fearful that he won't be open for long. 

"With schools going back this week, there might be a bit of a spike, and maybe Glasgow will be hit in the lockdown, who knows." 

"I didn't foresee a spike so soon, in August," he said, and with that adds the prospect of a hospitality closure to allow schools to reopen. 

"That's a worry," he said. 

Both chefs agree that the government's help has been laudable so far, but that hospitality will need more support to address local lockdowns. 

"It can always be better," Peter said, "but they've done more than a lot of countries so I'm not going to slag them off." 

"I worry that if we get put into another lockdown, will they have the appetite to save us again? I'm not too sure."

The rent issue, he added, "is massive" and contributions along the lines of the National Time Out terms would be a great help for businesses like his, which has had to pay full rent despite having no income since March. 

And having spent almost £20,000 on renovation to reopen safely, the pressure is on. 

"We've just got to keep a positive mindset," he said. "Make sure our guests are safe, our staff are safe. We've done a 10 page due dilligence document to make sure that everything is done in a healthy safe way."

"We're doing everything we can," he said. "It is what it is, we're just going to have to roll with the punches." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 10th August 2020

'It's a nail in the coffin'