27th Jun, 2022

Coventry's deserted streets as growing uncertainty over coronavirus hits city's catering industry

Catherine Vonledebur 17th Mar, 2020 Updated: 18th Mar, 2020

MANY businesses across Coventry report feeling “left in limbo” following the government’s advice to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants and other social venues yesterday (Monday March 16).

Coventry has today seen a big drop in footfall during the daytime with city centre businesses reporting a quiet day with far fewer customers, amid growing Mother’s Day cancellations and fears of job losses. Bare supermarket shelves, deserted streets and shoppers in face masks were noticeable.

A spokeswoman for The Golden Cross pub in Hay Lane, Coventry said “I’ve had 12 customers today whereas normally I would have had many more and food orders. The pub is just empty and there’s not a lot we can do. The government isn’t offering any help and our insurance can’t cover it. We will just have to wait-and-see as to what happens next. My brother runs The Town Crier and he says it’s been quiet there all day too.”

Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days in the catering and hospitality industry’s calendar and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic many hoteliers and restaurateurs expect to be hit hard by cancellations on Sunday March 22.

Playwrights, an independent family run bar and bistro employing 15 staff also in Coventry’s Cathedral quarter, was fully booked on Mother’s Day – but has seen the number of bookings fall to 60 per cent.

Manager Nicola Foskett said: “We have probably lost 75 per cent of our business this week so far. Last week was our quietest week of the year.

“Today we’ve had 10 customers when we normally would’ve done 60 meals by mid-afternoon. In the catering business Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter are some of our busiest times.

“We were fully booked for Mother’s Day but are getting cancellations. We are now down to 60 per cent. We will remain open but judging by the rest of Europe it looks like the government will be telling us to close soon.

“As we still have lots of freshly cooked food including jacket potatoes, soup and beans, we put out an appeal on Facebook today calling for vulnerable, homeless and elderly people who would like a hot meal for free and we are going out to deliver them. Tomorrow evening we are donating 30 meals to Coventry Comfort Carers for the homeless. There’s no point feeling sorry for ourselves when what we can do is help other people in the community.”

Bigger national chains including The Botanist were today open but awaiting further announcements from head office. A number of restaurant, pub and bar operators said they have been “left very much in limbo”.

It was also announced that family-friendly Easter activities, organised by Coventry Business Improvement District (BID), due to take place in the city centre on Friday April 10 and 11, have been cancelled. This was set to include actors from The Fabularium in Coventry dressed as bunnies and giving out chocolate eggs, a former Britain’s Got Talent contender Hoop Guy and a giant bubble entertainer.

Trish Willetts, Coventry BID Director, said: “Due to the current situation with regards to Covid-19 and yesterday’s announcement from the government, we have made the decision to cancel our Easter events programme for 2020. This is not something we have done lightly however feel it is in the interest of public safety, especially given the family nature of the planned events.”

Andy Talbot, BID chairman, added: “Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety of our visitors and businesses during this time, whatever happens. We are actively seeking regular advice from Public Health England, so we can prepare for any outcome as the situation evolves.”

Cinema chains Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Picturehouse are shutting all their UK screens in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Showcase Cinema de Luxe Coventry is still currently open but has reduced audience capacity by 50 per cent in each auditorium to allow for empty space between each pair of seats and provided all cinemas with hand sanitising stations.

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