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‘Financial carnage’: Islington businesses urge government to offer more support amid coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 14:11 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:21 17 March 2020

The Piebury Corner in Holloway Road

The Piebury Corner in Holloway Road

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Islington businesses say Boris Johnson has caused “financial carnage” by telling people to avoid pubs, restaurants and theatres – without ordering them to close.

Rishi Sunak on The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: BBC.Rishi Sunak on The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: BBC.

The prime minister announced the new measures aimed at delaying the spread of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, but affected businesses can’t claim insurance because they haven’t been ordered to shut.

Many in the borough are worried they won’t be able to keep staff on and may go under without help, such as waiving utility bills and support with rates, rent and charges.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £30billion of spending to protect the UK economy from the coronavirus fallout last week, and he’s expected to announced a “significant” rescue package for businesses affected by the pandemic on Tuesday.

Una, whose husband Andy Hoyle owns The Gunners Pub in Blackstock Road, said their decision to close the popular match-day boozer until further notice yesterday was “pragmatic”. She added: “The football is cancelled so that was the big knock. And we’re in London, people come here from everywhere and we don’t want anyone to get poorly.

Nicky and Paul Campbell outside the Piebury CornerNicky and Paul Campbell outside the Piebury Corner

“Businesses right up the country will just be decimated and will never recover.”

On the decision to advise people to avoid pubs without making them do so, she added: “It’s like advising a child not to put their hands on a hot cooker. I think it’s absolutely atrocious. It’s wilfully reckless not only towards the economy but for people’s general health. It’s awful times for people that are independent because it’s a state of financial carnage.”

She called for rent relief and for business rates to be scrapped during the crisis.

On January 27 the government raised retail relief from 33pc to 50pc and extended the scope of businesses eligible to claim for support.

The Gunners Pub has been ordered to close down. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe Gunners Pub has been ordered to close down. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Mr Sunak also re-introduced pub relief to provide financial support for qualifying businesses.

Islington Council estimates some 1,850 Islington businesses and 100 pubs are expected to benefit from these changes to the tune of £9.6M and £100k respectively.

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The Twelve Pins pub in Seven Sisters Road also announced its temporary closure yesterday, on the eve of St Patrick’s Day celebrations where pubs typically make big profits.

In a post on Facebook, a spokesperson said: “Due to the guidelines on social distancing set out by the government today; The Twelve Pins will close at 8pm tonight and will reopen again when it is safe to do so. [...]

“We are deeply indebted to you our customers, and sincerely appreciate your loyalty throughout the years. We fully intend to get through this difficult time and get back to normality as soon as possible.”

March should be the busiest month of the year for Paul and Nicky Campbell, who own the popular Piebury Corner restaurants in Holloway Road and Caledonian Road.

Their takings fell by around £5,000 in January and £10,000 in March due a loss of custom, which Paul puts down to fewer Asian and America tourists visiting the nearby Emirates Stadium. Then the Premier League was postponed earlier this month after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta caught Covid-19.

Piebury Corner is already about £50,000 under and this week closed both stores, with 20 staff paid wages but told to look for new work.

The Campbell’s don’t have the cash flow to offer them statutory sick pay, and staff had relied on keeping tips to bolster their wages.

Paul said: “Every other country has ordered the restaurants to close and [Boris Johnson] hasn’t done. So we are all sitting in limbo. We can’t claim on insurance while were are not ordered to close, it’s not fair. Look at president Macron in France, he has guaranteed no businesses will go under. It’s not fair, Boris Johnson is protecting his Tories.”
Anthony Clarkson, who runs Joy Cafe in Holloway Road said his takings have fallen by about 50pc in the past week, adding: “It’s a very scary time for us. Footfall has dramatically decreased and it’s obviously going to get worse.”

Anthony, who runs the cafe with his partner and employs one staff member, says the government’s small rates relief has helped.

But he said businesses his are being left “at the mercy of landlords and energy companies”, and called on the government to suspend utility bills during the pandemic.

“You shouldn’t be paying bills where you don’t have the trade ‘Financial carnage’: Islington businesses urge government to offer more support amid coronavirus pandemic to cover,” he added.” He’s also resistant to the idea of small business loans because it would put him into more debt in the long run.”

Islington’s business chief Cllr Asima Shaikh said: “The council totally understands the frustrations of small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, that are being significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. We would support demands by the hospitality sector on government to be clear with their guidance to enable them to claim insurance. Central government and the chancellor need to announce a strong package of financial support to businesses and in particular to ensure that they can pay the wages of the workers.”

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition that calls on the government to provide financial and practical support to the hospitality sector.

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