'These are the people who got us through' - South Tyneside pubs and restaurants thank customers for support after 'a year that has felt like a lifetime'
Hospitality businesses are looking back on ‘a year that has felt like a lifetime’ as they look forward to brighter days.
The first national lockdown, followed by a series of local and national lockdowns, have all had a devastating impact on the borough’s hospitality sector, with many traders left fearing for their futures.
Recent Government figures show that, even before the pandemic hit, small hospitality businesses had been struggling to stay afloat. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of pubs in Britain fell by 22%.
But, South Tyneside traders say, the past 12 months have also strengthened community bonds, as residents have pitched in to help struggling firms and vice versa.
Lee Hughes, who manages the Red Hackle pub in Jarrow, ran a ‘community kitchen’ out of his premises during the early weeks of the pandemic, providing hundreds of meals to residents.
"Credit to everyone who’s done their bit – they’ve all played their part,” he said.
"We’ve all been hit hard by the lockdowns. The autumn and winter ones especially were a kick in the teeth for the sector after all our hard work.
“The vast majority of pubs in the area stuck to the rules with changing guidance and a disastrous track and trace system set up by the Government. This has meant we’ve had to give up the busiest times of the year for us.”
Shah Lalon Amin, the owner of South Shields restaurant, Dehli Six, ran a similar initiative for key workers out of his business following the initial outbreak of Covid-19, thinking ‘it would probably just last around a month’. “At the beginning, we just thought that this would last around a month – so we decided to reach out to the community and do something productive,” he said.
“When the second lockdown hit, we reached out to the public for support – we really didn’t know what to do at that point.
"It’s been tough – 12 months of perseverance. But our customers have really supported us, sharing our page, messaging us to let us know they’d order from us on payday.
"These little things have helped us a lot.”
Stephen Sullivan, the landlord at Ziggy’s Bar in South Shields, told The Gazette it was important to reflect on the positives that can be drawn from the past 12 months.
“At this point, it’s good to be optimistic,” he said.
"It’s been a struggle for us all – at some points this past year has felt like a lifetime. But at the same time it’s been fantastic to see the community coming together to support local businesses like ours.
"These are the people who have got us through. The people of South Tyneside have got us to this point and the community spirit in the area is what will stick with me, I think.”
Manager of the Lakeside Inn, Carl Mowatt, echoed the sentiment, saying: "A massive thank you to all our customers and supporters – they’ve all been amazing.
"We’re all excited about getting back here – we’ve had a lot of positive feedback with what we’ve done.
"There’s light at the end of the tunnel, as they say. I just hope there are no further spikes or lockdowns in the area now.”