Machines supplier LSO have taken a pragmatic view on the roadmap to recovery, and there’s optimism running through the system. But, Leigh Smith is not letting go of the rights and wrongs of the Covid fall-out. The fact that the Commission has just ‘whacked’ them with a renewal invoice, and all the utility bills continue to be paid – there’s one all-important reality: there’s no support coming in from the council. As far as he’s concerned, it’s very much one-way traffic – the industry still doesn’t know enough or get enough guidance and support from the authorities.
Does the government’s roadmap provide you with a clear path for a return to business?
Yes, it’s pretty clear for us. Earliest we can expect a full return to normal as far as turning the machines back on is 17th May. However that’s a Monday so that means working over the weekend to run around all the sites re-floating and checking all still working OK.
What’s missing from the roadmap for your business?
Hardly any of our clients have pub gardens, but those who do are asking questions about how that will operate ie is it table service, will customers be able to go inside to order/use the toilets. For us if the customers can go indoors do we need to make sure machines are closed up, rather than left open as in lock down. So a few things to work out but plenty of time to do so.
We have the budget this week, what does the chancellor need to do to make the roadmap work for you?
The financial pain from all this is hard to bear. Furlough at 80 percent still leaves us having to find the 20 percent plus the employers NI when there is no money coming in. We have had to fight the Council to get any grants from before and over Christmas and are still waiting some 9 weeks on from when the Chancellor announced that all businesses closed in lock down 3 should get up to £9k. So far no sign of that coming. Yet in the meantime we still have had to pay out Rent, Electrics, Phones, Insurance, Finance Agreements etc. To add to that two days ago I got my renewal invoice from the Gambling Commission asking for the full whack as if there had been no Pandemic!
So what would be really helpful would be for the Chancellor to add to what he offered in January when he was covering the period to Mid February and to insist that Councils get this money out asap. Furthermore to ask the Gambling Commission to play ball on their licence fee and only charge for when firms have actually been trading. For my clients many of them will struggle to pay business rates if they are re-instated so some help there would be good.
The news of help with the BBL in terms of an extra 6 months of no repayments and extending the term of repayment is good, but it should be remembered that this is a debt we wouldn’t have had but for the Pandemic so it’s going to be hard to cover the repayments on top of our normal outgoings.
However having said all of that I am optimistic for the future that is now see-able on the horizon. I think there will be a lot of goodwill out there from the public who can’t wait to get out into our hospitality venues and to enjoy themselves.