Coronavirus in Calderdale: “I think there will be some that won’t be re-opening” - borough’s restaurants brace themselves for impact

Calderdale businesses in the food industry are facing an uncertain future as the consequences of the coronavirus begin to bite.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 9:52 am

Earlier this week the public were advised against all non-essential travel and social contact, and advised against going to restaurants, measures which could be in place for several weeks.

The government yesterday (Tuesday) unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact, including £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs.

Billy Fletcher, general manager at The White Lion hotel and restaurant in Hebden Bridge, said: “Our main concern is that if we are forced to close, making sure our staff still get their wages.

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Debbie and Chris Greenwood at Denman's Restaurant, Shelf.

“But if there is no money coming in that makes it very complicated. It’s a complex situation and it’s hugely concerning.”Very few businesses can cope with multiple weeks of no cash flow. Cash is king.

“If you hold cash in the business then it isn’t so bad. Some businesses will be affected more than others.

“But we have no business without our staff. And not being able to pay them is a massive issue.

“Hopefully insurance companies can help with that, or the government can offer support.

3 December 2019...... Head chef Mark York at True North Restaurant, Dean Clough, Halifax: Picture Tony Johnson

“I would like to think businesses won’t have to close permanently. Hopefully they are supported and can get through it.

“A lot of restaurants could possibly do a delivery service, but that wouldn’t work for us.

“We take a lot of business through tourism and international guests, but they are not travelling at the moment. So that is a huge knock-on effect.”

Sam Hughes, restaurant manager at True North, said: “We are being very proactive in mitigating this but it’s something we are going to have to learn to co-exist with.

General manager Billy Fletcher at The White Lion, Hebden Bridge.

“It’s the unknown that’s the issue. It is challenging times, we’ve only been open a few months.

“We’ve already changed our procedures to take extra care, such as removing things like salt and pepper pots off the tables and using disposable packs so that only that person comes into contact with them, and all the surfaces are being sanitised every half-an-hour.

“The well being of our staff and customers is our top priority.”We’re taking it as it comes. There isn’t any precedent for this in the industry.

“We’re taking things down to a day at a time.

“Even at the best of times the hospitality sector is unpredictable, particularly restaurants and bars.

“I think there is a bit of apprehension and nerves, because it’s the unknown.

“We can’t ignore our way out of the problem. Being as responsive as possible is the best way out of it.

“We’re independently owned and we employ local people.
“We always encourage local people to support businesses in the community, but that becomes particularly important as we work our way through this.

“We’re doing everything we can to minimise the risk to people.”

Chris Greenwood, from Denmans Restaurant in Shelf, said: “We’re already seeing an impact with losing bookings. People don’t want to be socialising.

“But we’re still going. We fear it’s only a matter of time before we are forced to do whatever other countries are doing, which is shutting down.

“We can stand it for a week or two but then all I can do is rely on savings to try and see our way through.

“But it will have a knock-on effect for suppliers - wine suppliers, butchers, bakers.

“We are a busy restaurant. We are getting some cancellations but then we are getting others coming in.

“We had an elderly couple in on Sunday night who said “we want to come out and enjoy things while we can”.

“But I think it will take a few restaurants out and there will be some that won’t be re-opening.

“Hopefully not many, hopefully everybody gets through it.

“When it’s all over, I think it will boom again and everybody will say ‘fantastic, let’s go out, I’m fed up of staying in’, and there’ll be a very busy period following the shut down.

“We’re lucky, we’ll get through it.

“We will have to prop up the business with our own money.

“But some businesses won’t be in that position where they can afford to do that.”