Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Time called on temporary takeaways

Time called on temporary takeaways

CAFES, pubs and restaurants in the Henley area offered takeaway services in an attempt to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

They were forced to close after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told them to shut on Friday to help curb the spread of the disease.

Many continued to serve customers at the beginning of this week by delivering food or enabling them to collect but the majority then decided to shut down altogether.

Brakspear has closed all its pubs, including 10 in Henley.

Chief executive Tom Davies told the Henley Standard that Mr Johnson’s announcement was better than allowing pubs to stay open but telling customers not to visit, as he had previously stated, which he called “particularly unhelpful”.

“At least it’s clear advice, or a clear instruction as to what we need to do and therefore the financial help that then followed has been helpful,” he said.

“When we were in limbo it was almost worse. At least we’re on a level playing field and we know where we are. They understand the cost pressures on pubs and therefore they can put a package in that’s helpful.”

Mr Davies said he welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledges on staff wages, business rates and financial support packages for the hospitality trade.

The Government will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the pandemic. It will pay 80 per cent of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

Mr Davies said: “I think people are now less anxious and with this, alongside the rates relief and grants that are being offered, businesses should survive.

“When our pubs were 70, 80 and 90 per cent down last week we were having to look at all options. As it stands, we hope not to have to make any redundancies.

“I can’t say it will never happen but while the Government is supporting us in this way I don’t think it’s going to be necessary.

“This whole situation will potentially change the way people behave on a day-to-day basis. We don’t know how long term this is going to be. All we can do is prepare ourselves as best we possibly can and put ourselves in a better position to re-open and serve our customers.”

Nuno Rosado, who runs the Square restaurant in Market Place and Al Forno in Reading Road, initially opened both for takeaway from 5pm but then closed his businesses altogether.

Before closing, he said: “Everybody who has come to us has been in good spirits and as long as people continue to come out and the Government keeps its promises, we will all be fine.

“If the Government breaks its promises then 80 per cent of all restaurants will probably go, leaving only big business [chains] able to stay afloat.

“Cash flow in this business is nothing and we live day-to-day. I am going to keep all my staff and keep paying them as long as I can. I am running the staff so only half come in on one day and the other half the next.”

Neil Ainsworth, landlord of the Argyll pub in Market Place, said: “We are going into lockdown now. We have been selling four-pint flagons of beer, while we have it. Our supplies are limited.

“All payments have been deferred, rental and the like. Sky Sports and BT have been cancelled until further notice. It is just about cash flow and no one is going to evict us.

“We just have to make sure we keep our own mental health and ourselves occupied. Our staff have gone and we are continuing to pay them for as long as we can.

“We are working on the basis that we will recover the business because the pub still remains a lifeline for many in the community. We are more than happy to help in what ways we can. I have 10kg of carrots that need a home, not necessarily for any money. I have sold half a dozen boxes of giant Madagascan prawns.”

Aishling Rowe, who runs Pachangas in Duke Street with her partner Carlos Tovar, also ran a takeaway service, and was delivering within a three-mile radius, but this ceased on Tuesday.

She said: “On Saturday we had about 20 takeaways and while that is not huge in terms of revenue, it was more than what we expected.

“We have not had to lay off anyone — we have always been reluctant to do that — and we were hopeful that the Government would announce some support and it was a relief when it did.

“All our staff are local people and they too have bills to pay so I am really grateful to be able to keep them as they all work so hard.”

On Tuesday, the restaurant said: “It’s a really tough decision to make whether to stay open or not and it’s with a heavy heart we have just decided we will close today with immediate effect.

“We worry about our own safety and of others and at the end of the day that comes first.

“We will come back fighting stronger after all this is over. Thanks for all your encouragement, we couldn’t do this without all the support from you, Henley.”

Shaun Dickens, head chef and owner of the Bistro at the Boathouse in Station Road, had initially said his restaurant had become a takeaway business but he shut down altogether this week for the safety and welfare of his staff and customers

A statement said: “We would like to thank all our loyal customers for their support over the years and especially the past few weeks as we have tried to adapt to the rapidly changing situation we all find ourselves in.

“Unfortunately, this now means it will not be possible to continue our service. We have put in place measures to safeguard the business for as long as possible and fully intend to be back in business serving you all as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Before the closure Mr Dickens said: “I really wasn’t sure what to expect but Friday we did 65 orders, Saturday was between 65 and 70 and Sunday we had 100 orders for lunch so it has gone absolutely bonkers.

“Hats off to the Government with all the sound bites and bullet points but employers still have a responsibility to find cash to support staff and pay bills and we do have some fixed costs.

“I have done a mini business plan and cashflow projections and I believe that we will ride it out.

“My fear is the more medium to long term. Events like Henley Royal Regatta and the Henley Festival are important to us and most businesses in Henley work with the same model in making hay while the sun shines in the summer and consolidate in the winter.”

The Bombay Dining restaurant in Reading Road is doing takeaway only.

Fernando Coppola, manager of Villa Marina in Thames Side, said the restaurant was currently closed but could re-open as a takeaway.

The Hart Street Tavern is closed. Owners David Holliday and Alex Sergeant said: “Hospitality runs deep within us and we’d do anything for our customers, locals, friends and staff.

“However, right now, everyone’s welfare and health and safety is of much more importance than any food service or indeed our beloved business and that must be foremost in our minds at this time.

“The time has now come for us to suspend our takeaway service and close completely. We believe this is the correct decision for the safety of everyone and when we look back, perhaps we should have done this even sooner.

“We will be forever indebted to the NHS and this is what they are asking for and it is the very least we can do to listen and implement this.

“Stay safe everyone. We will be back very soon. That is a promise.”

Henley cafés Harris & Hoole and Berries in Hart Street, Costa in Duke Street and Café Buendia in Bell Street all shut on Monday after initially offering takeaways.

Others including Drifters in Duke Street, Caffè Nero in Bell Street and Hot Gossip in Reading Road, had also been offering the service, but then shut earlier this week.

The Chocolate Café in Thames Side closed on Saturday. It had been running a takeaway service but said the most important thing was social distancing and to keep its customers and staff safe.

Starbucks in Falaise Square has also closed, along with Pizza Express in Upper Market Place, Coppa Club in Bell Street and Zizzi and Café Rouge in Hart Street.

Coppa Club, which has also closed its branch in Sonning, said: “It is with heavy hearts that we have followed the Government’s instructions and closed our Coppa sites until further notice.

“The safety and wellbeing of our team, our guests and the community has always been our number one priority. Stay well, keep safe and we look forward to raising a glass with you on the other side.”

The Shellfish Cow restaurant in Reading Road has closed until further notice.

A poster on the front door reads: “Following the Government’s advice to avoid social contact and to not visit restaurants, we have taken the tough decision to temporarily close both of our Shellfish Cow restaurants and bars for the health and wellbeing of our wonderful team, guests and suppliers.

“When the current situation improves we will re-open with gusto. We are currently working on the logistics of a takeaway and a delivery service.”

Spoon in Duke Street was running a takeaway service but closed on Monday.

It thanked its customers for their “overwhelming support, encouragement and kindness throughout this turbulent time”.

Chocolate shop Gorvett & Stone, also in Duke Street, was open earlier this week but only allowing one customer in at a time and card payments only. It then shut but is taking orders online.

Domino’s pizza in Bell Street is closed for collection while the Full House Chinese takeaway in Friday Street is only open in the evenings.

The Giggling Squid in Hart Street was doing takeaway only but stopped on Tuesday.

Spice Merchant in Thames Side said customers could order between 4.30pm and 9.30pm until further notice.

It had been offering a full service for collections and deliveries and customers could place an order up to three days in advance. It then switched to a door delivery service.

“We as a business have been trading for 35 years. We are fully committed to our customers today, tomorrow and for many more years to come.”

Hotel du Vin in New Street said its bars and brasseries were closed until further notice. Guests will be able to order food and drinks via room service only. The hotel’s spas and treatment rooms are also closed and social distancing is being implemented in all public areas.

The hotel said: “Our employees are taking extreme measures to ensure the highest levels of hygiene standards are maintained throughout all areas.”

The Loddon Brewery in Dunsden closed on Wednesday and stopped deliveries.

A spokesman said: “Everyone needs to go home and be safe and we’re no exception. We know this is going to cause a huge surge in orders and we’re already working at near capacity, so we promise that we will do everything we can to get the beer to you but can make no guarantees.

“We’d like to sincerely thank you all so much for your support and promise we’ll see you on the other side for one hell of a party. Stay safe.”

Gabriel Machin butchers in Henley market place is one of the few businesses open as normal.

Owner Barry Wagner said only two people were allowed in the shop at one time and had to keep two metres apart.

He said that between 40 and 50 people had visited on Tuesday morning and that he was expecting a full delivery and full range of produce to be on offer that afternoon. Patisserie Franco-Belge in Duke Street has also remained open. Up to four customers are allowed in at one time and others have to wait outside. They must enter via one door and exit via another and keep a distance of two metres between themselves.

Manager Christine Harris said: “We’re sanitising every 30 minutes, or every time we handle money and washing hands regularly, trying to keep everyone safe. Trade is very quiet so far, we’re playing it by ear really. We’re trying to stay open for as long as we can.”

The Granary café and deli in Watlington was offering a takeaway service but decided to switch to deliveries only. Chocolate producer Tutu Delicious in Watlington has closed its shop. Customers who would like an order can do so by phone and the shop is offering a local delivery service.

The Field Kitchen in Nettlebed has closed. Dave and Barb Field, who run the business, said: “These uncertain times mean that we cannot see a way to stay open and be sure we are not putting our customers and ourselves at risk to coronavirus. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to seeing you again very soon. Stay safe and look after your families and neighbours.”

Stoke Row Store is still open for business but its café inside the shop is closed and it is offering a takeaway service instead.

Shiplake corner shop is open for business and is offering to deliver goods to people in need.

Ewelme Store is still open but has closed its tea room. It is asking for volunteers to help deliver produce to villagers in need.

Binfield Heath Stores is delivering goods to the homes of customers who are self-isolating.

The service will be provided at no extra cost and customers can defer settling up until they can leave their homes.

One Stop in Wood Lane, Sonning Common, is open for business but has introduced restrictions on the sale of loo roll to one per person. Pierreponts Café in Goring says its café is closed for the “foreseeable”.

However, it is offering deliveries and a discount for anyone in a high risk category or who is self-isolating.

The Waterfront Café in Benson has suspended its restaurant and takeaway business.

Owner Chris Price said: “Above anything else, we want to protect our staff and customers so it is with huge sadness that we now feel it is time to suspend our restaurant/takeaway business.”

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