More businesses could be lost due to delay of 'Freedom Day'

Fears have been raised that the delay of lifting the final Covid-19 resitrictions could be the final straw for some businesses.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:00 am
Fears have been raised over the future of some High Street businesses due to the delay of 'Freedom Day'.

Businesses say the news will be devastating for the battered hospitality and retail sector and threatens the future of thousands of owners.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the final restrictions would remain in place until July 19 at the earliest, rather than be lifted on June 21, due to the rise of Covid cases involving the Delta variant.

The news has been another devastating blow for those in the hospitality industry who had been hoping for good financial periods in June and July after more than 14 months of struggle – and further impacting the local economy.

Marc McPake, of Caboose at Blyth Boathouse, said they had begun taking on new staff ready to cope with increased customers numbers from June 21 and taken bookings for events – now all of which were in jeopardy.

He said: “We’ve been on a recruitment drive with the view to getting back to full capacity, taking on more staff but now we don’t have the demand to satisfy those staff numbers.

"We can either overstaff which comes at a large cost or let people down.

"This is a hammer blow that’s going to have an impact on us.

"We have a strong set of values in place and want to look after people as much as possible. Some people have left other jobs to come to us.

"I think the impact will be felt long after the restrictions have lifted.”

Marc added they had taken bookings for events, including wedding receptions and birthday parties, in July but were now having to cancel them and refund deposits which would damage their reputation.

He added: “We’ve had financial projections for the full year where we accept some months will be quiet but this is usually balanced out by strong months in the summer.

"June and July are peak months for the hospitality sector, and after the last year this summer was going to be about trying to claw something back but now that’s been thrown into jeopardy yet again.

"I think this is where are going to see a lot of businesses going under. A lot of them were clinging on to June and July but now that hope has been stripped away and a lot of businesses won’t survive.

"It just seems quite callous from the Government, especially as there is no mention of any support this time.”

Campaign group Save The Street say the postponement will be the last straw for many independent retailers struggling to get back on their feet after being forced to close during the lockdowns.

Ross Bailey, CEO, said: “By keeping social distancing requirements in place for pubs and restaurants and not allowing the night-time economy to fully reopen on June 21, footfall on our high streets will suffer, hitting independent retailers the hardest, just as spending is starting to pick up.”

Jonathan Walker, director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “The likely delay to the lifting of restrictions is another blow to those businesses who have been placed under the most severe strain over the past 16 months.

"They still need the right level of support to ensure their businesses remain viable.”