Preston businesses have been reacting to the Government-enforced closures of pubs, restaurants and similar venues in the fight against coronavirus.Advertisement
Many eateries have switched focus to a delivery service, with the likes of PLAU, Fino Tapas and Town House Coffee and Brew Bar offering takeaway options.
Underground wine bar Winedown, in Lancaster Road, is one such venue trying to adapt while working out how to access Government funding.
Owner of Winedown Dougie Lowe said: “It’s a very strange situation because trade has been very difficult for us all these last few weeks. The order to actually close is something we’ve all been both dreading and hoping for, so at least we know where we stand.
“Like a lot of food led venues, we’re now stuck with perishable stock we need to move. Hopefully we can move forward with some takeaway and delivery options.
“The other issue is how quickly – if at all – we can access the funding we’ve all been promised to enable us to pay bills and staff.”
Events promoter Garry Cook works with many different venues in the city, and is concerned about the wider impact of venues closing.
He said: “If you’re running a cafe or a pub right now you must be feeling shell-shocked.
“Many pubs and cafes offer so much more than food and drinks – they are social meeting places for everything from knitting groups to poetry clubs and Extinction Rebellion campaigners.
“The Stanley Arms has hosted loads of private groups and meetings, plus in the past two years has put on some of the country’s best theatre and spoken word-shows.
“Regardless of what compensation packages are available, venues are going to lose out massively during their enforced closure. I fear some will close for good.”
Read more: How these family-run Preston businesses are helping people affected by coronavirus
In response to the worries of people like Dougie and Garry, Preston City Council is introducing a number of changes to its support services.
The Environmental Health team at the council is helping businesses make the necessary changes to offer delivery, including advice around temperature control and contact-free delivery to people’s homes.
The council is also working with businesses affected by a drop in trade due to coronavirus by offering additional support and flexibility for those struggling to pay bills, including delayed or alternative payment arrangements.
Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council, said: “The COVID-19 outbreak is a significant and untested challenge for the city of Preston, but it is one that the community is meeting with great resilience and fortitude.
“We understand the impact the situation has had on families and the small independent businesses we’re proud to have in Preston, and are determined to do everything we can to help.
“As such we’ve adopted a sympathetic and flexible approach to council tax and rent to support businesses and families with the aim of ensuring we help those losing income as a result of something they have no control over.
“Additionally, we’re working alongside central government and businesses in the city to provide advice and support on business rates and rent relief. We strongly urge Government for greater clarity and structured relief to help our businesses weather this storm.”
Read more: Preston city centre venues targeted in first night of lockdown
Meanwhile Steve Fogg, the Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership is urging businesses to access the Government’s support packages.
Steve said: ”What initially began as a public health emergency is rapidly becoming an economic emergency and I would urge Lancashire’s businesses to ensure they access those support measures for which they are eligible.”
Details of the Government support packages and how to access them can be found on the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership website, which is being updated regularly.
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What do you think of the way food business are reacting to the closures? Do you think they are being given enough support? Let us know in the comments.