Freedom Day delay is huge blow to Shropshire businesses

The postponement of the so-called Freedom Day has been met with disappointment by a Shropshire business leader.

Darwin manager Kevin Lockwood
Darwin manager Kevin Lockwood

Kevin Lockwood, manager of Shrewsbury Shopping Centres and director of Shrewsbury BID, said: “It’s disappointing, but what we expected given the increases in Delta variant cases.

“Shrewsbury has bounced back significantly since lockdown measures were relaxed in April, and we continue to attract visitors to the town and wider region, capitalising on the ‘staycation’ boom.

“Shrewsbury BID and its partners will continue to support local businesses through this pandemic, and we have a fantastic series of outdoor events planned during the summer, including live music and family activities.”

The decision to delay until July 19 means capacity limits for pubs, restaurants, sporting events, theatres and cinemas stay in place. Nightclubs, which had been desperately hoping to reopen their doors from Monday, will still be required to stay closed.

The move has come as a huge blow to the hospitality sector in particular, which had been urging the Government to stay on track with the June 21 date.

Martin Monahan, owner of The Buttermarket nightclub in Shrewsbury, was critical of how information was leaked, and said it caused anxiety among people who wanted immediate answers over bookings before anything official had been announced.

Martin Monahan at the Buttermarket, where an 'Unlock' party was planned

“We are working flat out at the moment, talking to promoters to try and cancel and reorganise things," he said.

"It is very disappointing. Telling everyone via government leaks is not the way to do it. I’ve been on the phone to promoters for about three days solid.”

He added that it will be another blow to the industry, and that there must be financial support from the government.

“It’s another hit to the hospitality sector,” he added. “I always said I didn’t quite understand why they wouldn’t wait until everyone has been offered at least one vaccine. I think that would have been more sensible.

“There definitely needs to be more financial support for the hospitality industry.”

The Buttermarket had been planning an “Unlock” party, with clubbers waiting outside for a New Year’s Eve style countdown before being the first on the dance floor when the clock struck midnight on June 21. Tickets will be valid for the new date when it comes round.

Pubs and restaurants group Marston's, which has its head office in Wolverhampton and venues across Shropshire, had been working on the assumption that it would be able to remove limitations on numbers on June 21, but now faces having to hold back.

The group's chief executive Ralph Findlay was not willing to issues a comment on the impact until all the details of the Government's announcement had been analysed.

A new survey of more than 400 decision makers within UK businesses found 51 per cent are concerned about the impact of the Indian variant of Covid-19 on their business

The research from One World Express, a logistics firm revealed that over half (53 per cent) are more confident about the future prospect of their business compared to 12 months ago.

A similar level (56 per cent) have also seen an improvement in their businesses’ performance since the easing of lockdown restrictions throughout March, April and May.

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