ONE of the area’s most familiar venues has revealed the Covid-19 pandemic means its owners have lost out on almost three quarters of its revenue.
A second national lockdown was followed by placing Greater Manchester into tier three of the toughened coronavirus restrictions.
All that meant the Buffet Bar at Stalybridge railway station could not open its doors to customers.
And owners Beerhouses have spelled out to The Correspondent just how much they have lost out over the course of 2020.
Throw into that the cost of replacing a window smashed as burglars entered the venue and it is easy to see why they are fuming.Barry Shaw, area operations manager, said: “We had no trade during first lockdown from March 21 until the Buffet Bar reopened on July 22.
“We invested in the region £3,000 for reopening – extra outside seating, PPE, screens, sanitising, increased signage and increased staff training.
“We then traded for only nine days until local lockdown came into place.
“This change then incurred more cost for updating guidelines, posters and training staff on the new rules.
“We then remained under the local lockdown guidelines until the tier system came into place. This then had ten more days of uncertainty until we were finally locked down.
Over the period from reopen until lockdown revenue was down 55 per cent versus the same period last year. As it stands, 2020 is 68 per cent down on 2019 in terms of revenue.
“However our costs remain high. Ensuring table service and following all the rules increased staffing costs.
“Many of our other costs are fixed and are the same whatever our level of trade and whilst we are closed we still have many costs including rent, utilities, some staffing costs, security and insurance.
“We also have thrown away in excess of £3,000 of ruined stock this year.
“And the grants for the tiered system, which were meant to be backdated, we haven’t yet received and these do not even cover 40 per cent of the costs we incur whilst being closed.
“Since August we have been contributing or topping up wages via the furlough scheme for all our staff.”
The Buffet Bar is normally a mecca for people, particularly at the weekend as it is one end of the Trans-Pennine Ale Trail.
The run-up to Christmas would also normally be a busy time – not this year, although there is hope a review on December 16 may mean it can at least do some trade.
All the while, staff has been left wondering what is going to happen next but Barry could not praise them enough.
He added: “Our staff have been brilliant, picking up the new ways of working and ensuring everyone followed the guidelines every time.
“It has been tough, especially working with the constant threat of being closed again and what was happening next, especially in the tier three negotiations.
“The staff performed exceptionally well, especially with the anxiety of what is happening and job security or reduced wages from furlough.
“They want to work, we are Covid safe, hospitality has been proven to a very small risk sector and ourselves didn’t have a single case reported.
“It was incredibly upsetting for us to have to close our food operation and make two staff redundant to ensure Covid safety.
“The Government’s schemes Eat Out To Help Out and VAT cut on food sales and then Tier 3 rules saying we could stay open for food did not help us in any way, only punished us for ensuring we had taken Covid safety seriously.”
Spirits took a further blow when it emerged the Buffet Bar had been targeted by potential raiders, who smashed one of the windows before attempting to take property.
Fortunately, none was taken but that means only further bills.
Barry said: “It is incredibly difficult at the moment and to then suffer damage during a break-in is not easy to take.
“Being closed there was nothing of value left on site but the staffing costs, hassle and then replacement and fixing of heritage sash windows that need to done to specific standards is something that was really not needed.”