'Tier three blow will cost my Doncaster business £60,000 in two weeks', says angry owner who was hospitalised by Covid

Doncaster hotel boss Craig Dowie understands how serious the coronavirus is.

By David Kessen
Friday, 18th December 2020, 10:59 am

Less than two months ago, he spent five days in hospital after catching Covid 19, and is full of praise for the doctors who helped him through.

But he is furious that the Government has put Doncaster back in tier three restrictions – and says the compensation paid to businesses like his does not come close to what is needed.

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Bawtry Crown Hotel's Craig Dowie.

Mr Dowie, an owner and director of The Crown Hotel, in Bawtry, said: “I know the virus – I’ve had it. I was in Bassetlaw Hospital for five days, and they were superb, the A&E there was like a choreographed operation.”

But he is upset that the Government’s latest review of local restrictions means his business must remain closed, while compensation falls short of what is needed.

The Crown currently has 60 staff on furlough. Mr Dowie had hoped it may be able to re-open for Christmas after coronavirus cases had fallen in Doncaster.

There were 300 people booked for Christmas dinner on December 25, and 180 for December 26.

Cast, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-13-10-20 Doncaster 15-NMSY

Today, those are all cancelled, dates in what is traditionally the busiest period of the year, which he had hoped would carry the business through the quieter months of January and February.

He said: “This means we have lost £60,000 over the next couple of weeks.

“Tier two, we could have still fed people over Christmas and Boxing Day.

"We’re being closed with virtually no help from the Government. It feels personal.

Poppadoms and Cream, Hallgate

"It’s not groups of drunken students we would serve. It is families expecting to see Father Christmas and get presents. That’s who its impacting, and in a Covid safe environment.

"It feels like we are victims. It’s the worst I’ve been through. It feels like dark days, and we are the most Covid compliant business. You can do pretty much anything else, you can go into busy shops. You can queue up at Meadowhall, but you can’t have a turkey baguette and a coffee.

“The money available from the Government doesn’t come close to compensating us. We get £4,650 for December. That doesn’t even cover pensions and national insurance contributions, let alone gas and electricity.

"We’re not asking for a profit, but they should give us enough to break even. They should compensate us up front with what it costs to survive. We have three directors digging into their own mortgages and savings.”

He is not the only one upset that Doncaster will remain in tier three.

Raheel Mahmood runs the Poppadoms and Cream Indian restaurant, on Hall Gate. He says usually, at this time of year it would be packed with groups of families and office parties.

He was hoping that there would be a change in the restrictions before Christmas.

"This is our busiest time of year,” he said. “Because we’re stuck in tier three, people are not coming out. Even in the takeaways, we’ve felt a drop in orders. What can I do? “We’re not getting the support from the authorities. I would appeal for people to get takeaways to help businesses like ours through. We’re already offering discounts to try to get people in.”

Pam Webb, who runs the Truffle Lodge spa, in Fishlake, said her business was not as badly affected as some others, but tier three meant people from different households could not mix.

She said she understood that the restrictions were to protect the pressure on hospitals.

“We have a Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate,” she said. “Money was spent on that. Why are we not using that to take the pressure off hospitals?”

Director of Cast Theatre, in Doncaster, Deborah Rees, said Christmas had been cancelled at the venue twice now.

The original pantomime was cancelled early in lockdown, and a series of smaller Christmas shows were ditched when Doncaster was first placed into tier three.

She said the venue would now be looking towards the next review of the tiers in the new year so that it could look towards its plans for 2021.

"After Christmas, we would expect to be quiet until the end of January,” she said.

Ailene Horrocks, who runs the Horse and Groom pub in the town centre, said she was not sure if they would ever re-open.

The pub is a live music pub, and briefly re-opened with bands performing in September.

She said they had considered whether to re-open with food if Doncaster had been set at tier two, but today’s news had made that decision irrelevant.

She added she was worried whether Doncaster would have a live music scheme left when lockdown finally ends.

Dan Fell, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, said more support was needed for businesses. He said: “This is the last thing Doncaster’s business community wanted to hear even if it is largely expected. The continuation of tier three status will have a devastating effect on the hospitality and retail businesses that were hoping that the weeks leading up to Christmas would help to boost their chances of survival.”

But one of Doncaster’s most high profile doctors said infection rates in the borough remained too high.

Dr David Crichton, local GP and clinical chairman of NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Whilst it may be received with disappointment that South Yorkshire will remain in tier three, Very High Restrictions, it is a reminder of what we all collectively need to do to beat the coronavirus infections

“Doncaster communities have made huge sacrifices over the last nine months; we have brought our local infection rate down significantly in the past, unfortunately current rates remain too high. It is important that local restrictions reflect the local situation to ensure that local NHS services can support people during the cold winter months.

“Our COVID-19 rates do need to come down – it’s vital more than ever to think; hands, face and space, isolate if symptoms develop and get tested.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.