Some of the biggest names in the North-East’s food and drink scene are calling for emergency measures to help protect the future of the sector.
Almost half of companies surveyed by the Food and Drink North East group (FADNE) say they will not be able to survive more than three months if the current lockdown conditions continue.
Fear of the virus and the long-term need for physical distancing means that most hospitality businesses will remain shut down after lockdown and even when they reopen consumer confidence in using these businesses is expected to be low.
Many have no immediate prospect of being profitable again and fears are increasing that they could fail in the next few weeks and months.
Now members of the North East food and drink sector have called for food and drink businesses to be given a nine-month rent free period, with the Government helping landlords by providing a matching loan and a postponement of interest payments.
FADNE are also calling on regional LEP’s and combined authorities to administer a regional innovation and resilience fund for tailored support and finance for businesses to diversify.
The call has been backed by Helen Gill, co-owner of Chadwicks Inn Maltby (pictured above) and Chris Driver, of the Derry in Long Newton, both on Teesside, as well as veteran Newcastle restaurateur Terry Leybourne and Adam Riley of Riley’s Fish Shack.
In the Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A, screened on Tees Business’s Facebook page earlier this week, Helen said: “The support we’ve had so far has been great, but if this is going to be months down the line, we’ll need more support.
“We still have bills to pay, but we have no business. We’re fully committed to re-opening, but we can’t even plan. We don’t know when that’s going to be. And whenever that comes there’ll be social distancing measures in place.
“It’s a whole new situation, nobody has been here before. But for this industry in particular, we’re going to be one of the last industries to open, so we’re going to need more support.”
Chris Driver, owner of The Derry in Long Newton, said: “The pub and restaurant industry has had to adapt to changes since the financial crisis of 2007–08.
“The country saw the closure of many pubs and significant number of jobs lost. The hospitality industry needs as much support as possible to survive this Global Crisis. We are the lifeblood of our towns and villages.”
Jessie Jacobs, newly appointed director at FADNE, added: “Nobody in hospitality expects to get back to anything like normal for at least a year. They deserve our help.
“Although important Government measures have been implemented, which have been well received across most of our sector, it now needs to go further in order to protect the industry and many of our known and loved hospitality companies across the North-East.
“Our food and drinks sector are the lifeblood of our towns, cities and villages. We must do all we can to protect it.
“The Hospitality Union has launched an initiative that FADNE are asking the people to get behind, in order to protect thousands of hospitality businesses and jobs here in the North East with no cost to taxpayers.
“We are also asking for a regional resilience and innovation fund and support package to be established. Administered through Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities and working in partnership with sector focussed trade organisations, the fund could offer tailored support for businesses to diversify where possible.
“There are already some great examples of food and drink companies that have found ways to diversify and move online, but this takes resource, expertise and quick turnaround times. A regional resilience fund could offer this.”