Financial support for Covid-hit businesses

Restaurant Manager Jim Richards in Soy Seafood Restaurant in West Centre Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (32306827)

A PACKAGE of financial support aimed at helping businesses hit hard by the latest wave of Covid has been announced.

The move follows a second consecutive turbulent festive period for businesses, as many Islanders – who are worried about catching the virus – are opting to stay at home.

One of the worst-affected sectors has been hospitality, with many firms reporting a flood of cancellations.

The situation has become so dire that one St Helier eatery, JB’s Brewhouse, has decided to close its doors and operate a home-delivery service instead.

Yesterday, the government announced that the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme would restart, with firms which could prove that their income had fallen by over a fifth compared to December 2019 able to claim up to £1,250 per worker for December and January. A total of £500,000 per month has been set aside for the scheme, although the actual cost could be lower.

Eligible sectors include hotels, holiday and other short-stay-accommodation providers, event caterers, travel agencies and tour-operator activities and air transport.

At the same time, the Fixed Cost Support Scheme will be extended to cover additional sectors. The scheme makes a financial contribution, up to £5,000, towards a business’s fixed costs.

Marcus Calvani, co-founder of JB’s Brewhouse, who also runs The Lido function space, described December as a ‘hideous’ month.

He said: ‘We were due to have 15 large corporate parties at The Lido throughout the month and every single one of them has been cancelled. Our takings at JB’s last weekend were similar to what we do in February. We are at less than half of where we should be for December and we have decided to close JB’s and go back to doing home deliveries until January because the number of covers we are doing is not enough for us. I think introducing mask-wearing earlier would have made people feel more comfortable.’

Simon Harper, owner of Harper’s catering, revealed that the vast majority of his bookings had been wiped out.

‘We were meant to cater for up to 1,150 people across a number of events this month but the only significant event we have done was for 170 people. We are more than 80% down on our usual takings for December.’

Claire Bosq, chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said she was pleased the government had stuck to its promise to reinstate financial support measures if necessary.

‘We are relieved that the support has come and that the government has followed through on what it said about reinstating it because hospitality is being totally affected by this at the moment,’ she said.

‘It is not what we wanted to do because everyone in the industry is just wanting to get on right now and do what they do best.

‘We were all hoping that we were moving forward and needing this funding is a step back but I am sure the members will be relieved about this news.’

Elsewhere, JPRestaurants owner Dominic Jones said the firm did not cater for big parties but added that takings were down compared to pre-pandemic times.

He said: ‘I don’t think the work-fromhome guidance or mask-wearing will have an effect on the evening hospitality. I would be concerned if there was social distancing introduced and the only thing I would ask is that the government is transparent about the options it is considering when it comes to dealing with any rise in Omicron cases.’

Meanwhile, Sammy Gomes, owner of Soy Seafood and Sushi Bar, said: ‘We have had umpteen cancellations and obviously we are short-staffed as well because of Brexit so that has not been helpful. I would say 50% of our bookings have gone. We have had big groups that have down to a few people and then some have just cancelled outright. It is just a nightmare. We have got lots of little tables but the group bookings are definitely down. It is absolutely soul destroying. There are no two ways about it.’

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