'Heart-breaking' times for pubs and cafes everywhere

Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date published: 19 March 2020

Local hospitality businesses and venues throughout Oldham are struggling badly as the UK Coronavirus crisis continues to bite.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants and other social venues on Monday, the hospitality industry saw an immediate nosedive in fortunes, with Oldham star chef Simon Wood calling it out as a ‘cowardly stance’.

Pubs and cafes everywhere will continue to be badly hit for months yet, even more so if the Government imposes a total lockdown.

Jacky Donnelly has been running the successful Donnelly’s Café on Market Street in Shaw since 2017.

However, following a chat with her accountant she has been forced to lay off two of her four staff as takings have plummeted by more than 50% since the beginning of the month.

“It’s heart-breaking,” said Jacky.

“We’ve built this business up over the last two-and-a-half year and we were set for a cracking 2020.

“The first two months of trading were great and we were just hoping to keep building on that.

“My heart bleeds for everybody who’s in the same boat, though.

“I know a lot of people within the catering and hospitality industry, and it’s just so awful to see people’s livelihoods going from booming to dust.

“We’ve just got to follow the Government’s guidelines now.

“We can tick over on skeleton staff for now, but it’s difficult as we just go from week to week.

“We’ve not got the millions in the bank to comfort us.

“We’re just a hand-to-mouth business, like many are in our industry.”

Tom Yates (below) is the landlord at the White Hart pub on Hollins Road in Hollinwood.

He employs five staff.

“I’m determined to stay open until I’m told otherwise,” Tom told us defiantly.

“At the end of the day we’re a community pub.

“Local people come to socialise and have a drink together.

“If that choice is taken away from them, they’ll be at home in self isolation even if they don’t want to be.

“Takings have taken a massive hit.

“St Patrick’s Day, for instance, we had the room decorated and a DJ on, and there was 10 people in, and that was all day.

“This week’s Monday Club saw five in here when there’s normally around 30, so it is having a big knock-on effect.”

That’s a determined stance, but clearly Tom is worried about what the short-term future holds.

He added: “We’ll have a lot of money to find if or when we stop trading.

“My accountant has told me there may be grants available, but he fears they may not be that much allotted to the pub industry.

“I am just a drinking boozer, not a food pub, and I won’t get as much as the food pubs because their costs are a lot higher of course.

“With not having anything set in stone from the Government yet we are in limbo, and when you are running a small business it is a big worry.”

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