South Shields businesses speak out on impact of Great North Run route change

Hospitality businesses in South Shields were mainly, but not entirely, hit badly by the decision not to have the Great North Run anywhere in the town for 2021.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 6:01 pm

The seafront has become iconic and a familiar sight to millions of television viewers, as it traditionally provides the finale to the world famous half marathon.

However, organisers decided that social distancing could be best achieved by keeping all the runners in Newcastle, with the course taking in the Tyne Bridge twice.

The race, which was not held at all in 2020, is scheduled for a return to South Shields in 2022.

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Kevin Smith runs the National Trust's kiosk at the seafront, which suffered because of the re-routed Great North Run.

Pubs, cafes and other businesses in South Shields have lost income on what would normally be one of their most profitable days on the calendar; although some of the town’s B&Bs have still seen themselves booked up.

Kevin Smith was selling coffees and ice creams at the National Trust’s Souter Lighthouse and the Leas kiosk, where runners usually turn left to complete the run along the coast.

Usually the kiosk, a familiar sight to television viewers, would have done a roaring trade. Instead September 12 was a very ordinary Sunday.

Kevin told the Gazette: “We opened at 11am. Normally on Great North Run day we would open quite early. It’s been a lot quieter for people and not as busy for businesses in general. It’s really disappointing for the area.”

Meggie Lowe, of the New Crown, still found a smile - despite the Great North Run's re-route being bad for business. Pictured with runners and regulars Andy Stringer and Ben Roach.

Meggie Lowe, deputy manager at the New Crown pub where she has worked for 15 years, continued: “It’s devastating. There was a guy in on Friday and he was really upset that his family wouldn’t get to watch him.

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“Normally the atmosphere’s electric in here. It’s the best day of the year. It feels like 40,000 people come to the pub. It feels like our day.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s in Newcastle in one place rather than spread them around."

The Derby pub at the Nook, pictured on Great North Run Day, when thousands would usually be gathered there.

Meggie went on to express concerns that the event may continue to be held in Newcastle, despite assurances from founder Sir Brendan Foster that the GNR will return to South Shields “as soon as possible”.

Gary Thorius, manager of The Derby at the Nook for a decade, said: “It’s normally a good atmosphere; kids running around. We have a bouncy castle and my sister puts a stall up selling sweets for charity.

“We would probably take about another £1,500 on Great North Run day.

“It’s absolutely disgusting. They say it’s for Covid reasons, but what’s that got to do with Shields? It’s in the open air, next to the sea. What more do you want? It’s hard on Shields because we rely on it.”

Liz Carlucci at The Clifton in South Shields still had 100% occupancy, thanks to the Great North Run.

But Liz Carlucci, owner of the The Clifton Guesthouse on Ocean Road, told the Gazette that her business was not only unaffected, but thriving.

She said: “We’ve had 100% occupancy. People have cancelled, but only because of injuries.

“As soon as the rooms were cancelled they were filled again straight away. Some people have booked for next year.

“The town’s usually quiet on the Saturday. On Sunday they get up, have breakfast, then all get on the Metro to Newcastle. They’ll all come back this afternoon and eat in the restaurant.”

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