Morpeth retailers brace themselves for more Covid restrictions in new year

Morpeth retailers are bracing themselves for Covid restrictions in the new year.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 9:00 am
Morpeth traders give their view on a possible expansion of Covid restrictions in the new year.

And one cafe owner fears it could be ‘catastrophic’ for her business given her experience of the last lockdown.

Wendy Smith, who runs Cafe des Amis on Newgate Street, said: “I’m expecting more restrictions in the new year, perhaps along the lines of the rule of six with social distancing, but that will be catastrophic for me. I’d lose 50% of my tables.

"It was hard enough the last time and that was during warmer weather when people could sit outside. I can’t see that happening in the wind and driving rain.

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Wendy Smith of Cafe des Amis in Morpeth.

"We’ve had a horrendous December – business has been 40-50% down most days. It’s felt like lockdown by stealth.

"January and February is already a quiet time which we just try to get through so I am hugely concerned.

“I understand the circumstances we’re in with the virus but it’s the uncertainty of it all and the difficulty of not being able to plan. You still have to buy the food and prepare it.

"You can drop staff but if you do that and you get a busy lunchtime you can’t cope. But this morning, we’ve got three staff on and have only had a handful of customers.

Keith Brooks of Brooks of Oldgate, Morpeth.

"To me, they need to say they’re going to lock down or bring back furlough.

"At the moment – and I’m sure others will be in the same position – the grant we've got won’t cover one week’s wages and electricity.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not announced any further restrictions in England but has said he would not hesitate to act if necessary, based on hospital admissions and cases data.

Fiona Ward, from Longsands Après on Bridge Street, said: “It’s hard to know what’s going to happen but personally I think we’ll be back in some sort of lockdown in the new year. He (Boris Johnson) seems to have given us Christmas and New Year to help soften the blow on what’s coming.”

Fiona Ward and Anne Metcalf of Longsands Apres.

Fiona said the cafe/outdoor clothing shop, which opened in November, had been ‘quite busy’ in the lead up to Christmas but also felt the current restrictions were confusing for customers.

"They don’t know if they have to wear a mask because we are hospitality and retail so it’s confusing for them,” she said.

Dan Smail, of Morpeth Gin in the Sanderson Arcade, said: “It was really busy for us before Christmas but now we’re just waiting to find out exactly what is going on and what we’ll be able to do. Everyone else is just guessing at the moment.”

However, Keith Brooks from hand-painted furniture specialist Brooks of Oldgate, enjoyed a surge in business in the last lockdown and hopes for a repeat.

Dan Smail of Morpeth Gin.

"I would imagine my experience was a little bit different to most,” he said. “Lockdown was fantastic for my business.

"I think it’s because customers weren’t spending money on holidays and things like that and I was getting asked to paint their furniture.

"I keep the shop as a way of promoting the business but 50% of my work must now come through commissions.”