Leeds bars react as Rishi Sunak offers new financial support to Tier 2 businesses

Businesses in Leeds hit by coronavirus measures since the beginning of August will be able to claim for backdated grants under new economic support announced by the Chancellor.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 4:45 pm
North Bar.

Speaking in the Commons today Chancellor Rishi Sunak said there were “difficult days and weeks ahead”, as he announced businesses in Tier 2 areas will receive further financial support.

Up until now, only businesses in Tier 3 areas that have been forced to close have been granted extra financial support.

But the Chancellor faced accusations from some in the Leeds independent hospitality sector that new support had only been introduced now London was impacted, while the North had been under restrictions for many weeks.

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Matthew and Stephanie Cliffe outside The Assembly.

Dave Olejnik, owner of pasta restaurant Sarto and Laynes Espresso said: "Where was all this when they were holding Manchester to ransom and trying to make an example of Andy Burnham?

"Is it too late? Yes. Is it enough? No. Is it something that’ll help a little bit, yes, but the struggle continues."

Mr Sunak said the government would fund local authorities to provide businesses in their area with direct cash grants.

It will be up to Leeds City Council to decide how best to distribute the grants, but there will be enough money so that every business premises in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors can receive a direct grant worth up to £2,100 for every month Tier 2 restrictions apply.

The Government is also making the Job Support Scheme “more generous for employers”, Mr Sunak said.

John Gyngell, co-founder North Bar / North Brewing Co, Leeds said: "We welcome the recognition of the devastating impact of Tier 2 on businesses, and that the previous Job Support Scheme provided little support.

"However this is too little too late for many employees in hospitality and events. We are still facing the illogical 10pm curfew and a ban on households mixing indoors.

"The size of help isn’t significant enough to change the fact that huge swathes of jobs will be needlessly lost due to the mismanagement of this pandemic.

"There is still no announcement with regards to the elephant in the room for every hospitality business: We have all incurred terrifying amounts of debt, and built up rent arrears in the first half of 2020.

"We are now facing the toughest winter, and strangest Christmas period, of our lives."

Stephanie Cliffe, co-owner of The Assembly Bar in Crossgates, welcomed the news.

"The support that Rishi has come forward with today is welcome," she said.

"In Tier 2, we've felt a bit like we're in no-man's land. At first we thought it was great as we could open - but we were not able to access that financial support.

"So this is definitely a positive step in the right direction."

Stephanie and her husband Matthew are due to open their new bar in Garforth next month.

Their venues are intimate, making providing enough space whilst also allowing for social distancing has been difficult.

The ban on household mixing has also had an effect.

"It's definitely hit our takings," she said. "There's only so many times you can go out on date night with your other half.

"Now it's a question of how long this is going to last.

"We are all suffering - I just hope there's a resolution."

John Gyngell said other businesses who are linked to the hospitality trade will continue to suffer

"This announcement also offers no help to the supply chain and other manufacturers who don’t qualify for grants," he added.

"The impact on mental health of the negotiations and communication strategy of this government over the past week cannot be overstated.

"Businesses in the North have been crying out for support during local lockdowns, which appears to have only come on to the table once Tier 2 hit London."

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the Government had only acted now that the impact of restrictions had hit London.

She said: “For months we have urged the Chancellor to get ahead of the looming unemployment crisis and act to save jobs.

“Instead, we’ve had a patchwork of poor ideas rushed out at the last minute.”