Lockdown 2: More challenges facing South London businesses

For the second time this year businesses have closed their doors as England enters a second lockdown.

It means that all non-essential businesses, including restaurants and bars, will be closed until at least December 2.

Grove Park’s only pub, the 138-year-old Grade-II listed Baring Hall Hotel, in Baring Road, closed during the first lockdown, and has yet to reopen.

Campaigners claim owner Antic is intentionally allowing the pub to fall into disrepair so it can convert it into housing.

After the pub closed in 2009 and was damaged by a fire, the firm submitted plans to demolish it and build flats, which was approved by planning officers.

Campaigner Stephen Kenny, along with Councillor Liam Curran and others, created the Baring Trust to save the pub and get it listed.

They successfully had the council’s decision overturned in the High Court in 2011 and it was first in the borough to be listed as an asset of community value (ACV) in January 2013.

Antic, which runs about 50 pubs across London, bought the building in 2013 and reopened it, but later applied to build flats in the car park behind it, although this was rejected.

In 2018 the pub’s ACV status, including the surrounding land, was renewed, and Historic England Grade-II listed it.

Cllr Curran, chairman of Lewisham council’s sustainable development select committee, said: “They’ve trashed the building. They have no intention of running it as a pub. All the fire damage is still there.

“It should be a vital, busy, successful pub in the heart of the community.”

Mr Kenny said developers which own pubs do not invest in them.

“Their first and foremost aim is in redeveloping the site and selling on,” he said.

“Developing the car park would be detrimental to the setting of this Grade-II listed building. Outdoor spaces in pubs are needed more than ever.

“If they genuinely want to see a ‘flourishing pub’ here, then there is no reason why the owners can’t work together with the community on a Heritage Lottery bid to restore it, just like with the Fellowship Arms.

“Or sell it to someone who actually wants to run a pub and not a development site,” he said.

Antic owner Anthony Thomas said the firm wanted to see a flourishing pub. He added: “We have operated it for some six years at a trading loss, and given the scale of the investment originally required, we were always very clear that the redevelopment of the car park would not only unlock the necessary funds to complete the job, but enhance the reasons to visit.

“A third of our pubs unfortunately remain closed following lockdown in March. I fear that we will soon need to start closing those that we have worked hard to keep open.

“We can hear the very real death knell for our industry, and survival will be the focus for us all in the difficult winter ahead.”

 

Matthews Yard in Croydon

 

LAMBETH AND SOUTHWARK

One of London’s highest-profile LGBT+ pubs will be losing up to £160,000 a month after having to close for the second lockdown.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in Kennington Lane shut today, probably until December 2, after being hit by the first wave, then by the 10pm curfew, then by the Tier 2 classification of London.

It will be hit, like restaurants and theatres, in what is usually the most profitable time of the year – the last quarter.

Owner James Lindsay said: “We do not understand the inconsistency in the government’s approach.

“This time we cannot do any business at all. This is our panto season.

“We have been told we could sell takeaway beer but don’t see the point of that while a tight lockdown is in place.”

Hairdressers will also be hit. Valerie Maine from Live True London in Brixton Road, Brixton, said: “Since the announcement of the second lockdown, we have seen a huge surge in bookings – especially for hair colour appointments.

“This rush definitely helps immediate cash flow concerns. But if the lockdown is extended any further than the planned four weeks, we worry that this will completely destroy Christmas trade, which is extremely important for our industry.

“With so many salons already facing ruin, and many closing down, I am worried that our industry simply won’t be able to cope with this lockdown. I fear that many good salons may close their doors permanently as a result.”

Food market Mercato Metropolitano in Newington Causeway, Elephant & Castle, was shut down by police last week – it was open seven minutes after the 10pm curfew on one day.

Its grocery, takeaway and online shopping will be open during the lockdown.

It will also hand out free school meals during the lockdown.

Head of Communications Nezahat Sevim said: “We are so proud of being a part of the hospitality businesses that is doing its best to support the community, whilst bracing for the second lockdown.

“We strongly believe that no child should go hungry; there’s no excuse for that. We will continue to do our part in response to food poverty and call out the Government to do theirs.”

 

CROYDON BY TARA O’CONNOR, LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER

Businesses in Croydon face disaster if they lose customers as a result of a second lockdown.

Duncan Barnes, who runs 101 Records in North End, is facing the possibility of closing the shop for good.

He said: “(The lockdown) is totally unnecessary. We know more about this thing now. We know how to take care of ourselves and other people.

“But we’ve got to do it so I am going to carry on doing my business online.

“November has always been busy online before Christmas, but the shop starts to pick up in November. Like everybody else the lockdown will have a bad impact.”

Duncan said that he will soon be making a decision on whether to continue running the physical shop or just focus on the online business.

He added: ”I think everybody in the town centre is in the same boat but not everybody can do their business online.

“Croydon was on its knees before all this, I think the ramifications will be clearer early next year.”

For community venue Matthews Yard 2020 was set to be a big year.

The business finally moved into a new home near West Croydon railway station opening at the end of August, after years of uncertainty in a building that was due to be demolished.

Founder of the not-for-profit venue, Saif Bonar, said: “We had just finished the building work and were just about to open the bar (when the second lockdown was announced).

“In a way it is good because going into Tier 2 hit us quite hard, we lost about 40 per cent of our income overnight.”

Under the new lockdown staff at Matthews Yard will be furloughed and a £3,000 grant will cover most of the rent.

Saif hopes it can offer takeaways through Uber Eats soon, but until it is accepted on the platform, he will be focussing on coffee and cake takeaways through a hatch.

Chief executive of the Croydon BID (business improvement district), Matthew Sims, said the organisation will be pressing the Government for more support for businesses.

He said: “There is no hiding the worry, strain and anxiety facing businesses as the Prime Minister announced a second lockdown for England.

“These are very dark times indeed, but our community has shown its strength of character and resilience to come through the other side before, and I am sure we can do that together again.

“The determination of businesses in Croydon town centre across the summer months leading into the autumn, to rebuild, to refocus and adapt to a changing landscape across our high streets, is a shining example of what can be done together, in partnership.”

Pictured top: Duncan Barnes of 101 Records in North End, Croydon

 


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