England

Coronavirus: What are people doing to help bars and eateries during the outbreak?

Woman walks by bar Image copyright PA Wire
Image caption People are being advised to avoid cafes, bars and restaurants

The coronavirus outbreak will be "devastating" for the hospitality industry according to business owners. But while the government has outlined a package of measures to help companies, customers have also been launching schemes to support bars and cafes through the crisis.

On Monday, the public were told to avoid social settings such as pubs, restaurants and theatres to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The following morning, Aidan Jackson went to work afraid for his firm's future.

He employs seven people at his breakfast cafe, Aidan's Kitchen, in Newcastle and said he was worried for his workers.

But within 15 minutes of opening, he got a big boost - a regular customer came in and paid for 25 servings of his favourite order of pancakes and coffee.

Image copyright Aidan Jackson
Image caption Aidan Jackson employs seven people at Aidan's Kitchen

"I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry," Mr Jackson said after receiving the order - totalling almost £240.

"This morning we came in filled with anxiety and thinking 'is this going to be one of our final days forever?'.

"So this lad coming in like that was amazing really."

Mr Jackson said he planned to keep operating until he was told not to, but admitted the situation was "precarious".

He said there had been a "minor drop" in customers so far but he had already had several event cancellations.

Speaking before Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures to help businesses affected by a loss of trade, he was critical of the government for telling people to avoid businesses such as his but not offering any financial support.

At Tuesday afternoon's government coronavirus briefing Mr Sunak said all firms in the hospitality sector would be eligible for a 12-month break from paying business rates and small businesses would be able to receive funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The coronavirus outbreak could be devastating for the hospitality industry

Elsewhere in Newcastle, three pubs have launched a voucher campaign to support local street food vendors who appear at pop-up events at the venues.

The Free Trade Inn, Cumberland Arms and Mean Eyed Cat are urging people to "prepay" for meals to be enjoyed "once this crisis has passed".

The bar owners said those that made their living through pop-up events would be "devastated by likely impending closures".

"We owe a lot to our street food pals, they add so much to our businesses when they trade here," they said.

"The almost guaranteed drop in footfall is going to push street food to the limits and we simply can't stand by and watch that happen without trying to help."

Image copyright Gemma Moore
Image caption Gemma Moore, pictured with her mother, said she often went out at the weekend

One of those buying a voucher was Gemma Moore from Newcastle.

"Most weekends I would spend my money at these places anyway," she said, adding: "Buying a voucher doesn't make much of a difference to me and I will have a nice meal to celebrate when it is all over."

She said the "uncertainty" and "fear" for consumers was changing the way the people used bars and eateries, but the businesses' overheads would not change.

Asked how she would feel if the company collapsed before she could spend her voucher, Ms Moore said: "You have got to have a bit of faith and try and to help people where you can.

"I'm not missing the money and actually it would just be a real shame if a business closed, I would not be thinking about my losing out on a tenner."

Bristol-based bar and eatery finding service Wriggle has launched a similar voucher scheme called the Indie Kitty.

"Cash flow is a real issue for many small business as this outbreak progresses," the firm said.

"These vouchers will help put cash in the tills so these venues keep in business."

Nibble in Manchester was running a "pay it forward" plan to "try and keep cash coming through the door", while North Star Coffee in Leeds was selling vouchers to be used when "we are hopefully out of this disaster".

Mel and Martin Board, who own The Haughmond restaurant in Upton Magna in Shrewsbury, said they had had a lot of cancellations since the government's announcement on Monday.

Mrs Board said she feared they would be unable to claim any insurance for loss of earnings as the government had advised people to stay away rather then actually ordering them to close - though the chancellor would later suggest venues with insurance policies that covered pandemics would be covered in these circumstances.

"The hospitality industry is up in arms," Mrs Board said, adding: "We just think there should have been a bit more common sense.

"We have had to put our staff on part time hours but we are trying to keep the team together as best we can. We are just trying to keep a roof over our heads.

"Because all our produce is sourced locally it's got such a knock on effect on our suppliers."

Image copyright The Haughmond
Image caption Mel and Martin Board own the Haughmond

Yorks Cafe in Birmingham has launched an online donation page to try and raise contributions to the £35,000 a month it said it needed to keep paying staff.

"Our priority right now is to ensure that the hard working people of Yorks can sleep at night in the knowledge that they can pay their bills,"

Other businesses have been amending their services in an attempt to survive.

The Whisky Club in Birmingham is one of many bars offering delivery and click and collect services, while Reasons To Be Careful in Manchester said it would be "takeaway only".

"This is a heartbreaking situation", the cafe owners said, adding: "We would like to shout a message of solidarity from the rooftops to all of our independent trading buddies".

Mr Sunak said mortgage lenders would offer a three-month payment holiday for those in financial difficulty because of coronavirus.

Across the UK, about 457,000 people work in pubs and bars.

In 2019, the number of small pubs and bars in the UK increased for the first time in 15 years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The amount of money being spent also rose to the highest level since the financial crisis ended.

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