Hospitality jobs to go, pubs to close, no fans return, and no end in sight - Doncaster businesses react as borough placed in tier three

The November lockdown may be over.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 6:16 pm

But as Doncaster prepares for life in a new set of tier three restrictions, many borough businesses will see little difference, and can see no end to their situation.

Tracey Ebbage set up her JungleMazeia soft play centre in Thorne several years ago. After being forced to close by the initial lockdown, she was only allowed to re-open late August. She had to close again on October 23 when Doncaster was put into the initial level three restrictions.

Customers that day left telling her: “See you in four weeks.”

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Shoppers on the less busy streets of Doncaster Town centre in October as South Yorkshire entered the Tier-3 restrictions imposed by the government to try to halt the spread of Covid-19

Those customers still do not know when they can return.

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Tracey said: “Obviously we’re not happy, but what do we do?

"It’s hard, very hard. We’d already been shut since October 23, and we’d hoped then we’d be able to open again in four weeks. Now it doesn’t look like we’ll be back until after Christmas. We can’t continue opening and shutting, opening and shutting.

Junglemazeia staff next to the screen they have put up at the main desk

"When we closed on October 23, we got a £2,000 a month local restrictions grant. It doesn’t cover much when you’ve still got bills and premises to pay for. And what happens now? Do we have to apply again?

"But I don’t like to hear of deaths and feel for families who have been affected by the coronavirus.

"We’re going to have to try to keep mothballed. Between Christmas and New Year we would usually be full.”

Martin Blagden was also forced to close in October. He had managed to re-open his bar, Biscuit Billy’s on Silver Street after remodelling it as a sit down venue, rather than the busy, usually packed pub it had been.

Poppadums and Cream, Hall Gate.

"For hospitality, it’s a continuous nightmare,” he said. “I can’t see an end to it, to be honest. Even if the Government gets a vaccine out in double quick time, you’re then into early spring and summer.

"Christmas is traditionally a busy time.

"When will things ever be back to normal? There’s still going to be a massive debt when we do get back.

"Without naming names, I know there are pubs in town that will not be re-opening again. I’m sure people will see a difference in the streets when things do get back to normal.”

Carol and Hannah Shekle at Dreambakes

He said he had received assistance in terms of rent from the pub company who owns his building.

Raheel Mahmood, who runs the family owned Poppadoms and Cream Indian restaurant on Hall Gate, said they would have to lose two casual staff as a result of Doncaster being placed in tier three.

He added he has still not yet received a Government grant to help the business through the November lockdown.

"There is not enough work for more than one if we are just doing takeaways,” he said.

"We are very disappointed. We had hoped for better news for Christmas. We’d spent money on refurbishments ahead of that.

"We are lucky that our landlord has helped us.

"I don’t understand why we are in tier three and London is not. I would urge people to order takeaways to help businesses get through. We are just trying to keep our heads above water.”

Mum and daughter Carol and Hannah Shekle run a cafe, Dreambakes, on Priory Walks.

They are disappointed to see Doncaster placed into tier three, but Hannah was not surprised.

“With it being December, it’s going to hit people,” she said. “We will have to continue as we are doing takeaways and delivery. A lot of businesses are very busy in December so this will make a big difference.

"It’s a shame, but I understand it’s our turn. The beauty industry was closed down earlier in the year.”

The news is also a blow for football supporters. It means clubs such as Doncaster Rovers and Doncaster rugby league club cannot allow any fans to return to games, which would have been allowed under tier two.

Rovers said in a statement: “While the news that Doncaster has been placed in tier three is not unexpected given where we were before lockdown, it does mean that as a football club we have to continue to be patient when it comes to the return of fans.

“We will be working with local authorities to ensure that when we do move to tier tier the stadium is ready to accept the return of supporters safely.”

There was better news for shopping centres. Lakeside Village manager Di Rodgers, centre manager said it would be opening earlier in the day and would have late night shopping on Thursdays to increase its opening hours.

There are calls for support.

In a joint statement, Doncaster MPs Ed Miliband and Rosie Winterton said: “We know there will be disappointment that Doncaster is back in tier three, however we need to follow the science to help tackle the virus and work together. But it is essential that there is the right level of support for businesses and workers in Doncaster who will be affected by these restrictions.

“We will continue pressing Ministers to ensure Doncaster gets the economic support it needs to get through this crisis, to save lives and livelihoods.”

Doncaster Chamber chief executive, Dan Fell said, “It is not a surprise that Doncaster is in tier three. What is of paramount importance, is that national Government and local partners present a clear and sustainable road map out of this category ahead of Christmas and into the New Year. In the interim, it is vital that support gets to those businesses that need it and that cannot operate safely and profitably under the current restrictions.

“Businesses have sacrificed so much this year as part of a national effort against the coronavirus pandemic; we need Government to keep its end of the bargain by providing support to businesses, honouring commitments to a world class test and trace system and navigating the UK to an open and functioning economy as soon as possible.”

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.