BID calls on Bishop's Stortford's MP to help Tier 4 traders
Bishop's Stortford MP Julie Marson is being pressed to ensure the Government gives the town's traders clarity and certainty about "catastrophic" Tier 4 restrictions.
Last Thursday (Dec 17), shops and services were told East Herts was moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday, along with the rest of Herts, which meant businesses such as pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services.
The shift left non-essential retailers and personal care services such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, nail salons, spas, tanning salons and tattoo parlours open – but just two days later, Boris Johnson announced they too must shut from Sunday.
Bishop's Stortford BID (Business Improvement District) manager Gina Thomas said: "The announcement by the Prime Minister late on Saturday is a catastrophic blow to Bishop's Stortford retailers and businesses.
"With no notice, they've been required to close their doors a week prior to Christmas. With shops piled high with Christmas stock, hairdressers and beauticians fully booked and hospitality businesses with fridges full of food, this will have a huge impact on these businesses and all those they employ.
"There's now real concern that this situation will last a period of time, which is even more worrying. Whilst we understand the seriousness of the virus, the dire consequences to these businesses must be taken into account. Adequate grants, support and clarity on how long this closure will last is crucial. We will be writing to our MP to ask for support on this."
BID chair Karen Burton, who runs Karen's Cakes in Northgate End, said the uncertainty was preventing businesses from planning their survival strategy – and stopping the BID providing the most effective support. She called on the Government to set out a timetable.
Jackie Colman, who runs Elements hair and beauty salon in South Street and Urban Spa in Devoils Lane with husband Perry, said: "This has seriously impacted our business – not just financially but emotionally for our team and our guests.
"We are an industry that has a personal rapport with our guests; we build up relationships and friendships. This is like a pebble thrown in a pond – the ripple effect is fast. And what makes it worse is we see 'essential shops' open that are clearly not essential. So sad for everyone."
The mayor, Cllr Keith Warnell, has made supporting the town centre one of his priorities. Talks were already under way for the town council and the BID to work together on Christmas plans when the latest blow to the high street was announced.
He said: "It's difficult to balance trade versus health, but I do feel for those businesses that have just started to get going again, particularly the hospitality sector and those who have stocked up with goods and foodstuffs for the busy Christmas period.
"Some have been able to resort to takeaway schemes and free meals on Christmas Day for those on their own.
"The change from Tier 2 to Tier 4 over days was a shock, but if it has to be, it has to be!"
The BID is pressing ahead with a town centre Christmas competition with a chance to win a £50 voucher for your favourite Stortford store. Go to https://www.instagram.com/bishopsstortfordbid/ and like the post, follow the page, comment with your favourite Christmas emoji and tag your top trader. The winner will be randomly selected.