With time running out, Rossendale’s pub, bar and café owners are calling on the government for guidance about reopening.
Every day we’re asked by customers when we think the government will let us reopen, but with time running out to the suggested 4th July date, we and many of our fellow bar and café owners in the Valley are still in the dark about how and when it will be safe to open.
It’s been widely reported in the media that cafes and pubs with outdoor seating will be allowed to reopen first as the easing of lockdown restrictions continue. But then we have to remember that we are in Rossendale and not the Mediterranean and though we’d love to be able to rely on the weather to help our summer trade, the fact is we get on average 270 days of rain a year. So what happens when it rains? Do we just send customers home? Do we replace their drinks if they are outside in the rain? Are people allowed to eat outside our café on real plates and not takeaway cartons? Are customers allowed inside to use the toilet?
We are a small independent business and we want to make sure we operate under the correct rules. The council has given no guidance on what this actually means but reducing the 2m social distancing rule to 1.5m or 1m will help businesses to operate more productively.
Anna’s has been trading throughout the lockdown having pivoted the business to enable takeaways and deliveries. We have been able to offer takeaway lager in carry-home bottles as well as a range of wines and bottled beers. We also have a hot and cold food menu for takeaways. This has meant we can still be operational and serve our community effectively. The business has been well-supported by locals and our social media following has grown.
However, we are now asking for real, tangible guidance on how we can reopen safety for staff and for customers. We have installed hand sanitisers around the café but do we need to remove tables and install Perspex screens? We are a very small bistro so keeping to social distancing restrictions will be very difficult. Do we need an ordering app so customers can place orders to keep staff contact to a minimum?
We don’t have the kinds of budgets that the big restaurant chains do. What we really need is detailed information about what is expected of small businesses like ours in the hospitality sector so that we can plan. Small businesses like Anna’s haven’t got the money to just buy in Perspex screens or other measures when they may not be necessary. And with less than three weeks to go, time is running out. We are already getting our supply chains back up and running, rearranging rotas so that we can unfurlough staff and trying to second-guess what we need to be doing. There seems to be an expectation that bar owners can just walk in and turn the lights on and then start trading when the coffee machine warms up or the beer chillers are cooling. Let’s hope that they won’t leave it until the night before to tell us we can reopen.