In a speech last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out several new measures to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak. One of those measures advised people to stay away from pubs, restaurants and theatres. Ed Dyer from The Tuppenny on Devizes Road, Old Town has hit out at The Government's response suggesting that it is throwing entire industries to the wolves to save the insurance industry. In a statement he said -
Morning folks, following on from some heated social media debate last night, and my apearance on BBC Radio Wiltshire (which was hoped to be a debate with an MP, who of course didn't respond to the request), I just wanted to reiterate and clarify my position. I am sure I also speak on behalf of the four of us who co-own The Tuppenny.
We do not wish to remain open, certainly not just for the sake of making money. We would dearly love to shut our doors until this all blows over, not contribute to the spread of the virus and then be part of the process of healing when we are all safe again.
However, as an industry we have been properly thrown under the bus by Boris and co. By telling the public to avoid pubs and bars, but not enacting a countrywide shutdown (as governments in France, Spain etc were quick to do so) he has removed our source of income and not allowed us to claim against insurance policies and any government assistance funds for small businesses. Funnily enough, this saves his pals in the insurance industry and the treasury a lot of money (The French government has promised that not a single business will be allowed to fail because of the virus). This is a worse-case scenario for us, as we have basically had the onus put on us to make the decision, to "do the right thing" and close voluntarily, with no recourse to any assistance or guidance, or face what is already becoming some form of witch-hunt if we stay open in a vain attempt to support our families and protect our livelihoods. We are being made scapegoats. Our savings are all tied up in our little business, if it goes under, we lose everything. To have that happen because our government won't make a definite decision is sickening.
I reiterate - we dont want to stay open, this isn't what we are saying. WE just want the governement to do what the rest of the world seems to be doing, and order a shut down officially so that we have the option to try to claim against our insurance policies, and for the governement to help an industry worth billions to the UK economy (I have read figures as high as £70bn) and that employs upwards of 3 million people, an industry that essentally has been abandoned. One of the largest net contributors to the Treasury's coffers is the booze industry through duty payments. Come the other side of this awful event, there will be no industry left, leaving a huge hole in public finances, and a huge gap in society.
So, please help us and lobby your MP, sign the petitions. We want to do the right and responsible thing and close but at the moment we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.