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The Prime Minister’s announcement stressed that restrictions would be eased in steps, on a ‘data not dates’ basis, but sectors were still given hope they would all be allowed to reopen by mid-May.
The earliest date covers non-essential retail, hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons and indoor gyms, as well as outdoor dining and drinking. They should all be back on by April 12.
For restaurants, pubs and bars getting customers back indoors, May 17 is the date ringed on their calendar, along with theatres and cinemas who can look forward to having audiences back then.
The Guide spoke to four Liverpool business owners to find out their reaction to Boris Johnson’s roadmap and whether they believe it was too careful or hit the right balance between safety and survival …
“We’re finally on the right track – but it’s difficult to know exactly what the future will be like for the hospitality industry until Rishi Sunak has announced what help will be issued in the Budget next week.
“Indoor hospitality can resume from May 17 with the rule of six in place, but that’s four weeks later than we’d anticipated – and 12 weeks from today. It puts huge pressure on Mr Sunak to ensure that VAT remains low, business rates are waived for a further year, there is an extension to the furlough scheme, and there’s another round of grant funding.
“It doesn’t sound a lot but with 10 days to wait until we hear, that’s 10 days of anxiety and stress for many people and businesses wondering what they are going to get. We need to see real back-up, financially, from the government or you will see businesses in distress and, likely, failure.
“There is pressure on rents – we’ve been paying for near empty buildings for almost a year. For those who have been hanging on by their fingertips already, they will not wait and they will close.
“It’s still June 21 before any normal business can be resumed and that’s when we can put the foot on the gas pedal.”
“I wish it was next month, but at least we’ve got a date,” says Barbara, “and the rumours were saying May so in a way April was a nice surprise.
“We’ve been able to furlough our staff during lockdowns and thank God for that because I don’t think any salon could pay their staff’s wages for this amount of time. Even with wages paid and a grant, it still doesn’t cover all the costs, so we are still really out of pocket but it’s the same with every salon and every business.
“Now our clients know a reopening date, they’ll all be keen to book in. We have a list of those whose appointments had to be cancelled last time, so we’ll prioritise them and start making those calls tomorrow.
“I’ve seen so much box colour over the past few weeks so I think we’ll be very busy with colour corrections too but for our staff it’s not just a job, it’s a passion so they can’t wait to get back in the salon.”
“With us being at the Dock, so much of our footfall depends ideally on the whole site being open,” says Katherine.
“The restaurants won’t be open for indoor customers until mid-May, so I think we’ll be looking at a gradual building up of business in those weeks between April 12 and May 17.
“After what we’ve seen with other lockdowns I’m very wary of having any expectations. I’ve definitely learnt my lesson and won’t be thinking, right, everything’s going to be back to normal from April 12, but this time I can see actually some facts behind the announcement. At this point I think we just grab whatever positives we can to keep that will to want to adapt.
“I’ve got absolute faith in the people of Liverpool and the business community because they’ve been so supportive of us during this, and I think we’re going to see an increase in more local people coming to the dock, getting out in their own city a bit more, which will be a really good thing.”
“It’s great that we’ve been given a date that we can work towards, for me as a business owner and for my staff and clients,” says Connor.
“We have really pushed our online programme and training, but compared with gym sessions take-op is a lot lower. A lot of our clients haven’t trained since lockdown and haven’t wanted to continue online – but we know as soon as the gyms reopen the demand will be there and people will want to get back and get fit and healthy again.
“If there is one thing we have learned throughout the pandemic, it’s the valuable effect of our physical health on our mental health.”
He adds: “For us as a business, online training isn’t sustainable. It kept out trainers in work but it’s not most beneficial to us. The crisis has probably put our business model back 12-18 months, but with the hope now that we will not have to close down again, we can keep building it and look positively ahead.
“It’s good news.”
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