Coronavirus in Calderdale: “We just don’t know what’s going to happen” - Cafes and coffee shops face uncertain future

For cafes and coffee shops that rely on passing trade and repeat business, the disruption caused by coronavirus has cast their futures in doubt.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 10:05 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.

Mark Richardson, owner of Loafers in the Piece Hall, said: “It’s a real worry. We’re in a reasonably good place if they did close us down, but we’ll just have to play it by ear.

“We’re getting a lot of calls and emails asking if people can buy stuff online to support us.

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Owner Esther Mattock at the Willow Tree Cafe, Sowerby Bridge.

“But it could have a real impact on small businesses so it’s important people are told that we are still here and we are still open and we need people to support us.

“We’ve been very busy over the weekend, but we’ve built up a really good level of loyalty from our customers over the last three years.

“People really want to support us and they’ve been coming out in force.

“I think there’s an element of ‘go out until we’re told otherwise’ but there’s a lot of love out there for Loafers and they don’t want us to suffer, which is lovely.”

Owner David Gething at Gabriel's Coffee Lounge, Sowerby Bridge.

Lisa Thwaites, owner of the Blue Teapot Cafe in Mytholmroyd, said: “I’m really concerned. I’ve only just re-opened this week after being shut for five weeks because of the floods.

“It’s been steady, but we thought we might be busier. Whether that’s because people don’t know we’ve re-opened or they’re avoiding going out I don’t know.

“As soon as people leave, we’re cleaning the chairs and tables, we’re cleaning the bathroom, the card machines, anything people come into contact with.

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

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s business as usual until we’re told otherwise.”

Esther Mattock, from the Willow Tree Cafe, said: “We’ve got a lot quieter already.
“It’s the unknown. There are still people coming in but we can tell it’s getting quieter.

“If the government closes everything down for four weeks, who will pay the wages of my staff?
“I’m a single mum with two children, I don’t want to get it and be ill for three or four days - who would look after my children?

“I think it will shut a lot of cafes down.
“We’ve just had January and February, which are quiet months anyway, and we had the floods, which were everywhere.

“The water was half a foot deep at our Sowerby Bridge cafe, but we were open again in three days.
“Big businesses will have big pots of money in reserve, but small businesses need some certainty from the government.

“The public, and even other cafes, do support us really well. And we’ve survived two floods.
“We’re taking every day as it comes. We’ll see what the government decide, it’s in their hands.”

David Gething, of Gabriel’s Coffee Lounge in Sowerby Bridge, said: “I am concerned. I was due to go to Amsterdam and Bruges this week, but the flights were cancelled.

“But I’ve been in contact with cafe and bar owners out there who have said that, although things are bad, some have started doing takeaways and deliveries.
“We’re going to try and do the same. As long as we are responsible with our deliveries when coming into contact with people, it could be a meals-on-wheels service.

“We could offer discounts for the elderly who might be inside on their own so they can stay fed and watered. It’s about trying to turn a positive into a negative.

“We have to normalise things as much as we can instead of concentrating on the doom and gloom.”