To better understand the day-to-day impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Manchester’s creatives, we’ve launched a new series inviting spokespeople to share their thoughts on what the future of their sector might look like when things return to a new normal. This week, we hear from Jason Bailey, co-founder of Manchester street food and drink fair, Grub…

In the first weeks of lockdown I’m slightly ashamed to say that I felt pretty good. Gone were the daily stresses of running a business because my business was not running. I quickly accepted in totality the fact that everything we had worked for was gone and there was a strange sense of peace attached to that. We’re weren’t giving up, we were just facing facts. Not only that – but after working seven days a week for several years it was nice to have daily lie ins, to spend proper quality time with my little lad, to read a cook book, to clean the garden, enjoy normal human being stuff. Despite the world being gripped by a deadly airborne virus I was pretty chilled out. We were still figuring out how we’d support our team and suppliers but yep I was relaxed. It didn’t last long.

As the government support was announced bit by bit we slowly realised that there was a chance we would make it. We spoke with suppliers and customers, landlords and partners. Suddenly it seemed like everything was in place to allow us to provide wages for our team and get on top of our fixed costs. We waited patiently, we cracked on with some jobs at the venue, we made plans. Just last week we got to a point where we have enough support and sufficient cash in the bank that we 100% know we’re going to make it through this phase of the crisis. We had a beer, we sat in a paddling pool, we were content. It didn’t last long.

Yes we survived. Yes we were trading in a limited fashion. Yes we were making progress on re-building our venue. But the thing that quickly stripped us of our momentary happiness was the thought of being allowed to re-open by the government. On one side is the crushing financial impact of the loss or scaling back of the furlough scheme combined with a potential 50% loss of capacity and a totally unknown level of demand from the public. We are an independent business and we run on slim margins – the thought of losing any of our income is terrifying and we have no idea how we’re going to cope with that. That said, we’re one of the lucky ones. Although we’re not rich, we do have a big venue that we can rearrange to accommodate social distancing, we do have an outside space, we’re good at doing different things and what we offer is fairly unique in the area. Taking that in to consideration, we are much more likely to survive all this as a business than almost anybody else we know. I can’t imagine the stress of folk who are less lucky than us in regards to their situation.

Then there’s an even scarier consideration. The hospitality industry is, all being well, supposed to re-open the 4th July. It feels like this government is rather keen to hit its own schedule despite the COVID-19 threat level not being reduced. They also don’t seem too bothered about issuing effective guidance to support places they instruct to re-open. As a result it seems likely that, to at least a certain extent, we are going to be in charge of deciding how and when bars and restaurants should re-open. I’m not Patrick Vallance – in fact my main skill is putting up gazebos quickly – I don’t think the hospitality sector should have too much responsibility in this area. Hopefully you can understand why we’re actually scared to re-open. The flip side to that is we’re also scared to not open. The longer we stay closed the bigger the chance that we don’t ever re-open and so our team lose their jobs, our traders lose business, our suppliers lose a customer, we lose everything we’ve worked for. There’s a lot at stake for everyone. We don’t really know what to do, hopefully that won’t last long either.

50 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, M4 4HF
, Tel: 07767 259640
Guest Post
Published on:
Wed 17 Jun 2020