'What about us?' Forgotten Shropshire businesses left in limbo
Forgotten Shropshire businesses have said they are “disappointed and confused” at being ordered to remain closed after lockdown, with gyms, nightclubs, nail bars and dance studios still yet to be given a date when they will be allowed to reopen.
Gruelling gym sessions, a pamper at the nail bar and a good old fashioned nightclub stomp may seem like ancient concepts from a time gone by after a lengthy period of lockdown.
Personal trainers, beauticians and the like will have been nervously anticipating the latest announcement of which businesses could reopen after closing during the coronavirus pandemic. But the Government is still not allowing many businesses to open. For the foreseeable future nails will continue to grow, iron will remain unpumped and dance floors will be clear of the gyrating hordes.
But if pubs, restaurants and hotels are deemed a low enough risk to reopen, should other places be given their chance to make a comeback?
Beauty Boutique in Belle Vue Road, Shrewsbury, can open its downstairs hair salon on July 4 but must wait before doing nail appointments and other treatments.
Owner Terrie Horton said: "It's hard to say whether I think it's fair or not. We're just following government guidance. We do really want to open again. We want to keep people employed.
"We've had lots of people messaging asking when we'll be back. We've just got to wait for guidance. They say you need to keep one metre apart, but in some treatments I'd be six inches away from someone's face. It's different with hairdressing because it's not face-to-face.
"We've got all the PPE in and got screens up. We're just waiting now."
Dave Courteen, managing director of Mosaic Health & Spas which runs The Shrewsbury Club, believes the decision to keep gyms shut is economically motivated.
He said: "I think it's purely a political decision, not a scientific decision.
"I sit on the members council for UK Active and we presented a framework for the leisure industry to return on May 7. We had no questions back so we thought the Government was happy with it. Public Health England signed it off. The first we knew of any questions was last Saturday.
"The thing is with health clubs, we are actually incredibly safe. You can't catch coronavirus through sweat. Swimming pools are safe. So then you're down to the social distancing aspect. If you can manage that in a pub or restaurant, there is no reason you can't in a gym."
He added: "The truth is that the pub and restaurant business is significantly bigger that the health and fitness industry, and the Government have probably been told 'you can't open everything'.
"The second biggest group who are worst affected by the virus is people who are overweight. One thing membership at a health club can do is help people maintain their weight. It's really important. Regular exercise is also proven to help build up the immune system, so while it won't stop you from getting the virus, it would be less impactful if you were to get it.
"If they had said we could open later in July after the pubs and restaurant, I think we would have understood. But the lack of any date is incredibly frustrating."
Several measures will be in place at The Shrewsbury Club, including extra spaced out help desks to deal with customer enquiries, 15-minute grace periods between classes to stop too many people gathering in a small area, and extra cleaning. Staff will have had extra training for social distancing and the club has also been ordering in some of the best products to keep equipment clean. Some pieces of gym machinery have also been removed to help with distancing. The club also has plans to extend its indoor gym and build an outdoor gym.
Tina Carter, who runs Tina Carter Wellness Studio which does yoga and pilates classes in Newport, has chosen to remain shut until September, when she hopes confidence will have returned and restrictions will be reduced to a point where sessions can be enjoyed in a relaxing environment.
She was critical of the lack of financial help for businesses left in limbo. She said: "Because of the social distancing I wouldn't be able to have enough people in the studio. If I tried to open now I'd go bankrupt.
"I don't think it's right that there's no financial help for those that aren't allowed to open. They should be receiving something. Some businesses have been open for a month.
"Some of my regulars are keen to come back but some are over 55. When we do reopen, it needs to be nice for people because it's a weekly treat. People come to relax and have a natter. It makes it difficult when you have to socially distance."
Lydia Davies is the principal teacher at the Elegance Dance School is taking a similar stance and will not be reopening until September. She normally teaches ages three to 18 in halls in Shrewsbury, Ellesmere and Arddlin in Powys, and was prepared for the announcement.
"It's so important that when we go back it is safe, that's why it wasn't surprising because it is hard," she said.
"I am fortunate that I've been able to do online classes so I'm able to engage with children that way.
"I'm concerned about what's going to come up in the future but I'm trying not to think about it too much. It's important to keep an open mind and just go with it as much as you can."
Chantelle Borlase has been doing nail and beauty treatments since she left school, and has been running her own Telford-based business Chantelle's Beauty and Nails for a year and a half.
She said she and other beauticians were disappointed and annoyed to be left still in limbo.
"Because the hairdressers can open, it doesn't really make much sense to me. Hairdressers have to get quite close to their customers."
Chantelle, who will be working from Couture Lounge in Wellington when she restarts, said that her business was prepared to use all necessary personal protective equipment and that it would be difficult to do so in pubs, which are allowed to reopen from July 4.
"All of us are quite disappointed in the beauty industry, and a bit confused why we have got this uncertainty," she said.
"We don't even have a date, a rough idea of when we can reopen.
"It has been difficult, I am used to being so busy all the time, now I've got nothing to do really."