It was never envisioned by those who set up the Guild that we would face a challenge like this, where the Government is advising people not to go to our businesses. It is likely our response as a Guild will be limited, however, our chief resource is our solidarity and that we do offer.
As I am fortunate to be fit and healthy, I took a stroll through the town centre on Monday morning. Sainsbury’s seemed as busy as usual, which is not surprising. The only unusual sight was that the chap trying to refill the shelf of toilet rolls had given up and was just handing them out directly to customers passing. What is it with toilet rolls…?
The town was quiet, but not deserted. I went into The Junction, the High Street pub owned by Guild Members. I kept a respectful distance and paid contactless, but I wanted to know how it was affecting them. It was, I was told, no quieter than usual, but this was the morning. The real test would be lunchtime and there were real concerns about the ability to pay rent if income dropped significantly. One local pub had pointed out online that if the Pubs had been forced to close at least they could claim insurance, as it was, because people have been advised to stay away they are likely to be driven out of business.
That afternoon the Government announced a package to help businesses, including: “£330bn in loans would be available from next week to help businesses pay for supplies, rent and salaries… [and] extended business rates relief for all firms in the hospitality sector and funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses.” (source https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51939634)
Local help and advice has been published by Councillor Mark brunt on the council website here: http://www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/info/20401/coronavirus/1110/coronavirus_covid-19_information_and_advice. This is general advice, it will take a while for this rapidly changing situation to filter down to outworking in local areas but is a sign the Council are striving to stay on top of the situation and respond appropriately to the needs in the community.
If you do find you have been left with some time on your hands and would like to volunteer, we have an umbrella charity in our Borough, www.varb.org.uk (Voluntary Action Reigate Banstead) who are able to match volunteers with established organisations who need resources to support those in need in our community. You can visit their website to register.
If you as businesses are finding unique ways to respond or are adjusting your services to continue trading, please let us know – whether you are members or not – and we will be pleased to promote them via social media.
There is plenty of information on the Government website which is being updated regularly. This is the link to the page specifically on business advice.
There is no shortage of advice around at present, but perhaps the most important is to select carefully where you get your information from. We shall update you as we can. But for now, there is an article this morning on the BBC website entitled: What are people doing to help bars and eateries during the outbreak? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-51929578?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/england&link_location=live-reporting-story I was particularly moved by the owners of the delightfully named Reasons To Be Cheerful Beer Cafe who are quoted as saying, “We would like to shout a message of solidarity from the rooftops to all of our independent trading buddies”. So this article is not an attempt to give answers you could find elsewhere, but a shout of solidarity. Wherever this takes us, we are in this together.