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The devastating impact of Covid-19 on local businesses in Bristol

Covid-19 has had a devasting impact on many local independent businesses in Bristol. Lily O'Donovan talks to local small business owners to discuss their adapting business models and struggles to cope with the ever-changing regulations.

By Lily O’Donovan, Fourth Year French and Russian

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on our education, mental health, and also on our local businesses. Many local businesses in Bristol have experienced first-hand the huge impact on profits as their business models are forced to adapt again and again to the ever-changing coronavirus restrictions.

As Bristol now finally moves into tier 2 it would be easy to forget the long-lasting impact on local businesses in the Bristol area. Although shops and restaurants are now allowed to open, many are simply unable to, and those that have opened are opening at a reduced capacity. In addition to this, the fast turn around of the announcement until opening poses difficulties as there is very little time to prepare appropriately.

Although for many onlookers the new tier 2 restrictions may seem to be a blessing for the local hospitality industry, and a chance to make up for lost business during lockdown and the recent tier 3 restrictions, for many who work in the industry this is not the case.

A member of staff at a prominent Clifton village restaurant commented: ‘The new wave of restrictions demonstrates that the government fundamentally do not understand the workings of the hospitality industry. In addition to the difficulties of rapidly sourcing new stock, there is the challenge of learning a new menu for the Christmas period with no preparation which will only be offered for a matter of days.’

‘The new wave of restrictions demonstrates that the government fundamentally do not understand the workings of the hospitality industry’

Indeed, another challenge for local businesses is the constant risk of being plunged back into harsher restrictions with little to no warning, having already placed orders for stock. ‘The tightening of restrictions in many parts of the country demonstrates the ongoing threat of coronavirus, and the ongoing risk of sudden restrictions for Bristol businesses. For larger chains it may be possible to make up for lost business earlier in the year. However, smaller businesses might be unable to risk opening at all as they would be unable to absorb the costs of wasted stock.’

One of the local businesses that will not be reopening with the new tier 2 restrictions is the Bianchis Group which includes Pasta Loco, Pasta Ripiena, Bianchi's and La Sorella. The local restaurant group have made the difficult decision to remain closed. Although they are still offering their delicious food in the format of their takeaway pizzas from Pizza Bianchi, and their take-away pasta kits which can be purchased online from La Sorella (the group’s deli and wine bar located on St Stephens Street).

On a statement on their website the group said, ‘If we are allowed to re-open under new regulations we have made the very difficult decision NOT to open any of our venues until next year when we believe we can do it properly with good preparation, safety in mind & our suppliers can begin a steady ongoing flow again without any stopping – hopefully’.

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On the other hand, there are a number of local businesses excited to be able to rework their business model and reopen. East Village, a local vegan café, said ‘We shut as a takeaway over the most recent lockdown firstly to give our staff a break before the busy Christmas period and because Clifton was quiet (which is great as cases in Bristol are so low now). We have changed with the times and East Village is very different to before, but we are really happy with the business’.

Whether or not Bristol will remain in tier 2 after the next review remains to be seen. Certainly, if Bristol remains in its current tier, we all need to make the effort to support local businesses when we return to Bristol after the Christmas break!

Featured Image: Flickr / Georgio