For small and independent Manx businesses, it’s challenging to stay focused on the positives when the clouds of pandemic lockdown show no immediate signs of clearing. But it’s easy to see why businesses are panicking: years of blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention personal investment and sacrifice – have suddenly been cast in doubt, with many wondering what the face of their business will look like when the proverbial smoke clears.
About Jak’s Group
Jak’s Group is the umbrella company of Jak’s Bar & Steakhouse, The Barbary Coast Grill & Bar, A & J Quality Butchers, and Reactive Construction. The company was started by Andy Gibbs, with Jak’s the first business to open in 1990. Jak’s Group employs over 120 people across its group of businesses. Full time employees make up the majority of their workforce, followed by a mix of contractors and seasonal part-timer workers.
Operating mainly within the catering and retail sectors, Jak’s Group witnessed a substantial hit on their cash flow, reporting an 85% downturn in the weekend immediately following the Government’s recommendations to avoid social gatherings and to refrain from attending pubs, clubs, bars, and restaurants.
Two days after the announcement on March 20, Mother’s Day was effectively cancelled. Reservations at Jak’s and The Barbary Coast significantly dwindled, leaving both restaurants with considerably high staff levels, incurring overheads but with very little monetary income.
Although the Government’s recommendations were met with uncertainty and panic, the imminent closure of the Island’s hospitality and catering industry was expected, with the Manx Government following the UK’s lead on COVID-19 lockdown advice. These feelings stemmed mainly from the lack of clarity and crossed-communications with regards to the indefinite nature of the pandemic.
“From the perspective of a business owner, it was horrifying closing the doors on the businesses,” said Andy Gibbs, Director of Jak’s Group. “We hate closing the restaurants for things as time-specific as refurbishments, but being willing yet unable to trade made it much worse. Of course, the health of our workers and customers is paramount, and we’re working toward what business will look like for us when we come through the other side.”
Having kept all staff on the company’s payroll, with no lay-offs or redundancies, Jak’s Group has welcomed the continued support – both guidance-wise and financial – from the Government and the Manx Solidarity Fund.
“Our MHK has kept us informed of developments and potential exploratory avenues every step of the way, and that advice has helped us to identify the most appropriate Government support schemes to apply for. We applied for the Salary Support scheme and the process was relatively straight forward, we just hope that the funds are released in time to pay our team”
In the face of adversity, the entrepreneurial team has worked hard to pivot the Jak’s group’s offering.
“We’ve pivoted to offering delivery and takeaway, specifically for the Barbary Coast,” explained Andy.
“The support and response from our customers and suppliers has been phenomenal, and our employees have been going above and beyond what’s expected of them. From working long hours in the kitchen to deciphering Manx street names. Their adaptability to such a difficult situation is admirable.
“We’re trying our best to stay calm and put the needs of our staff first. We have one of the best workforces on the Island, and we don’t want to lose them.
“I think people realise the value of small businesses, especially in places like the Isle of Man, and I think our current situation will serve as a reminder about that going forward.”
Gef reached out to the Department for Enterprise to find out how long it takes between the submission of the Salary Support Scheme forms to the funds being received.
“The Coronavirus Salary Support Scheme went live on Thursday 16th April and by 1pm, 566 applications had been received. Treasury have already started making payments”
– Department for Enterprise
FURTHER SUPPORT FROM THE COMMUNITY
Although Jak’s group are eligible for the Salary Support Scheme, it has become apparent that many individuals and businesses are ‘through the net’ when it comes to financial support.
There are governmental and community groups being established left, right, and centre to bring some semblance of support to those struggling the most.
The Manx Solidarity Fund is a registered charity, whose model survives on donations from businesses and organisations on the Isle of Man to make a critical difference to our community.
They also coordinate volunteer services to help those who have found themselves unable to perform their usual duties. As we all know, the pandemic has not only affected the health of our community but also our income, our schools, our businesses, and our economy.
What the MSF so brilliantly embodies is that ours is an Island of stoicism, of resilience and tenacity. A community 85,000 strong, whose collective mantra is of rising from the ashes, of taking it on the chin and dusting ourselves off, and of landing on our feet whichever way we’re thrown.
About the Manx Solidarity Fund
The Manx Solidarity Fund is bringing the community together to support residents and local organisations facing difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic impacts the entire Manx community, and the Fund aims to deliver much-needed funds and support to the causes and individuals on the Island who need it most.