A Newcastle business group is calling for Government support to help city centre firms survive the latest coronavirus restrictions, warning that city centre businesses are effectively being prevented from operating.
The city’s business improvement company said news that the nation should expect lockdown restrictions to remain for six months will have come as a hammer blow to the hospitality sector, which saw revenue reductions of 60% to 90% in the first weekend of local rules across the seven affected areas of the North East.
As footfall in the city’s major retail core was recorded as being 6% against the previous week, NE1 said many of its 1,400 business members are expressing despair at the imposed restrictions – notably the advisory one-family/household rule for restaurant and bar bookings, as well as the 10pm curfew.
Having battled through lockdown, reopening and investing in making their businesses safe for customers and staff, the majority of businesses in the hospitality sector are now seeing custom being dramatically affected again.
NE1 leaders say Government support in the early stages of lockdown was sufficient to safeguard many businesses and jobs, but in the new phase, the group is urging the Prime Minister to urgently look again at additional measures to support local businesses and jobs.
The organisation is lobbying the Government to swiftly introduce financial support for businesses in areas like Newcastle where local lockdowns and restrictions are imposed, to support staff salaries and to offer grants to businesses to cover overhead costs and loss of trade, especially if the restrictions are to remain in place until the spring 2021.
It says the Government could end up paying out as much in unemployment benefits as it would cost to keep viable businesses going.
Adrian Waddell, Chief Executive of NE1 Ltd said: “Businesses understand the societal risks and the difficult decisions being taken locally, but these restrictions place an effective stranglehold on their operations and ability to trade.
“Because we now know they could remain in place until next year, we need the Government to step in to save businesses and jobs. No business can afford to keep going with such huge restrictions imposed on their trading practices.
“Urgent financial help is needed to support them through this crisis. If it isn’t forthcoming then the Government will be paying anyway through unemployment benefit. That’s the last thing we need when businesses can and should, with some targeted help, be able to keep operating.”