Business owners have criticised the gov for leaving them facing an impossible choice over the weekend with hospitality businesses being advised, but not ordered to close.
Those who chose to close will not receive any extra support, despite being left with little real choice after the government advised residents to stay at home.
Gef spoke to several business owners who asked to remain anonymous.
One business owner said the support referred to by Chief Minister Howard Quayle on Sunday, ‘equated to two fifths of f*** all’ and said that while lives have to be put first, it feels like the industry is ‘being asked to foot the bill for keeping the island safe’.
They added: ‘We heard Howard say that we could apply for Salary Support for the period, our problem with this is; we are required to demonstrate a 25% downturn in takings year on year – Why? We had confirmed bookings that had to cancel, this was lost revenue, we have tangible evidence of the electronic bookings and know that our revenue would have been in excess of ten thousand pounds.
‘Even if we do qualify – the Salary Support pays £280 per week per staff member. Staff overheads are generally 28 – 35% of operating costs in a hospitality business. The other costs of closing on a Saturday night pay weekend include, but are not limited to; direct food costs – an ungodly amount was wasted, rent, bills, heating. And the advanced resource and budget that went into generating bookings and interest (marketing & advertising).
‘Business owners and entrepreneurs in the Isle of Man need support, more now than ever. We would like to see the Government reevaluate the funding options for Hospitality businesses, perhaps the strategic capacity scheme should be extended beyond accommodation to food and beverage’
The business owner also criticised the advisory closing they were forced into on Saturday for the impact it has on their staff, not only in terms of their morale and mental health, but also their pockets.
They added: ‘There is a wave of growing anger within the industry, the hospitality sector are expected to pay to keep the community safe meanwhile the Civil Service remains fully staffed, with no impact to their income. That was before the hefty overtime bill after the first lockdown. It’s nothing personal against civil servants, but we feel that they can’t empathise with or fully understand our situation as they aren’t sharing the same pain as us.
‘It’s not all negative, we are grateful to have enjoyed a successful Summer Season. But at the same time, that shouldn’t be used by the government as an excuse to mitigate the impact of the decisions they made at the weekend.’
Gef has also heard from staff and owners across the industry that were disappointed by the lack of clarity on Saturday. They all shared a similar story of food being thrown away, having to contact customers to cancel pre existing bookings and workers losing out on wages as they can’t afford to take the hit.
The manager of a business in the South of the Island said that it ‘was our first weekend since September that we were on track to break even’.
Another business owner highlighted cash flow as an issue.
‘It has taken until this weekend for consumer confidence to return following January’s lockdown and this was the first weekend we have seen our bookings return to normality. Our projected revenue loss is around £10,000. I spent significant funds from an already razor thin cashflow on stock for the weekend, that could have been prevented had earlier notification been issued to businesses – something I was assured would happen after the last lockdown announcement that caught us off guard.’
During his briefing on Sunday, Chief Minister HQ said: ‘Our track record on providing financial support to businesses is a good one and the salary support scheme is still in place, covering businesses for Covid-related impact in February. It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday, today or for the whole month. The Economic Recovery Group, led by the Treasury Minister, will continue to monitor the overall position and the impact our decisions made.
‘Thank you once again to our business community who alongside the general public listened and acted, doing the right thing for their island.’