It's been such a tough year for so many, especially small businesses. Now that we're on the roadmap to normality we can finally begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of the very long, very dark tunnel.
As of Monday 12th April, non-essential shops are now open, cafes, restaurants and pubs can feed and water you from outdoor seating and offices are slowly seeing more soggy sandwiches in their fridges.
But there's still very much a lingering atmosphere of reservation and caution. I spoke to 4 small businesses to find out what they were doing to ensure they were Covid-compliant and keeping their customers and staff as safe as they can and how they feel about reopening.
Lisa-Marie Tonelli, Founder & Festival Director - North East International Film Festival
"The festival was founded over the last 12 months, during the Coronavirus pandemic. I made this decision based on the idea that submissions are ideally required to be open for 1 year prior to the event. I don’t think I took in to consideration the challenges that this might impose at the time.
As our inaugural event is set to take place this year, hosting events during a pandemic is our “norm” I guess. We had no prior experience with this festival before the implementation and necessity of all of the current rules and regulations.
We know that the general public are keen to resume outdoor activities and also to participate in indoor events, gigs and mass gatherings, but there is still a feeling of fear and unease surrounding the re-opening of businesses and the attendance of events.
In order to ensure our clients comfort we have read and intend to implement the Governments re-opening Covid-19 guidance, have a Covid-19 risk assessment in place and Working safely during Covid-19: Visitor economy guidance. This includes ensuring that all social distancing and cleanliness protocols are followed in each particular venue.
We applied for a UK wide industry standard and consumer mark to reassure our customers that we are adhering to Government and public health guidance. This is to provide reassurance that clear processes are in place and that our business is good to go. We have been granted use of We’re Good To Go and Safe Travels stamps through Visit Britain and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
We are hoping that these procedures will positively impact our organisation and give our clients that extra peace of mind."
Farah Qureshi, Jewellery Designer, works from her studio in Brent
"I feel quite excited about opening up the business to the public and taking part in pop up events in and around London. It feels like it's a fresh start. Jewellery is such a tactile product, it's good if people can pick pieces up and if the purchase is for them, to be able to try jewellery on.
A variety of different measures are in place for visitors coming to the studio/showroom. Hand sanitiser is available for visitors, they will need to wear masks when coming to my place of work. I have purchased an ethanol cleaner for cleaning jewellery, after it has been tried on or handled. I also have an anti bacterial cleaner for cleaning surfaces before and after customers have visited. For security purposes, if customers are visiting to view jewellery they will need to provide identification before entering. If customers do not want to come into the showroom, items purchased can be taken to customers cars, as an alternative to click and collect or sent to them in the post. Anyone working at the showroom will be encouraged to wash their hands before leaving. Protective gloves will be worn for cleaning duties and cashless purchases will be encouraged. There can also be temperature checks for those working in the showroom and there is a personalised service, in place for customers, which is, by appointment.
I hope that having Covid-19 health and safety rules in place, this will give visitors some peace of mind when coming to my place of work. Possibly there will be a tentative start when the restrictions start to lift, however I am hoping that business, post lockdown will bounce back quite quickly.
I have been able to see a seminar on Covid-19 health and safety, specifically for the jewellery industry. This has been through the National Association of Jewellers. There are also documents, which can be accessed on the NAJ website. It has been very helpful to keep up to date, with the new rules. Especially as they are industry specific."
Joanna Rennie, Integrative Wellbeing Coach at Nuclear Wellbeing & Company Director at TruthPie, London
"My clinic has been closed for the majority of the last 12months, due to the space being multi-use with my home and office but I used the time to qualify in further areas of wellbeing coaching and launched a home aromatherapy range. I'm also I'm the sole female director of TruthPie; an award winning holistic wellbeing collective in London which runs from private studios in a renovated Factory. TruthPie opened it's second venue in East London in March 2021 but due to events of the year we've had to close 2 venues and merge into a brand new space to navigate the turbulence that Covid-19 has had on our industry.
We're feeling excited to support our clients with areas of therapy which our clients have sorely missed; hands on care and bodywork therapies. All of the practitioners we work with are required by TruthPie to have taken a Covid-19 awareness course before returning to the centre. They wear full PPE for their various close contact treatments and in some areas we've gone above government standards to fully protect both our practitioners and their clients. We have tried to remain as eco-friendly as possible with our choices too, even having some equipment custom-made, as the use of disposable items has been a big concern for our climate-aware company over the last year. This way we can use equipment that can be fully disinfected but is not severely impacting the planet.
Our equipment is of a high standard and can be wiped clean, with clients being provided with fresh linens for each appointment and our appointments have been spaced out to ensure far less clients are crossing on entrances or exits to the building. We also keep regular contact with our practitioners to implement extra protocols wherever we can to make our clients and the team more comfortable. Temperatures are taken at the venue and consultations are performed in advanced where ever possible.
The spacing out of appointments has definitely made a negative impact on our business, as we simply can't serve as many clients in a day and this is a shame for both our practitioners and the clients who are booking in weeks ahead. We're also incurring additional costs for PPE and making wider impact on the planet than we'd like to, as some of the government guidance does not align with hygienic eco-friendly practise. However, I do feel the precautions that are in place are important to keep everyone safe and to help them to feel confident to return at all.
Originally we were receiving limited or contradictory guidance via different areas of the government website and various professional associations (who were equally confused about the grey areas of guidance) as they did not recognise therapeutic wellbeing services as anything different from beauty services or 'massage parlours'. We were basically following guidance for hairdressers and nail technicians rather than physios and osteopaths (who were still allowed to work) and what we offer is truly somewhere in-between and often dependant upon our individual client. Eventually additional guidance was established for the personal care industry and some of our practitioners were recognised as medical professionals in terms of offering emergency treatments throughout lockdowns.
Though it's important for us to get back to work, we also understand it's important for us to do this safely, particularly when we have some clients who may be vulnerable."
Jo Carroll, Owner - Winchcombe Farm Holidays
"By the time we are allowed to reopen in April for single household bookings only, we will have been forced to close for over 8 out of the last 12 months.
There’s no doubting that the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the whole of the hospitality sector, especially in Stratford-upon-Avon (where we are based) where the tourist economy supports over 8,000 jobs.
We are anticipating a very busy summer, with July and August pretty much fully booked. However, the complex rules in place about travel between 12 April and 21 June have been a nightmare to work through with our guests, to make sure they and we are compliant. We’ve had to cancelled and refund several group stays as they contravene with the Rule of 6 or two households rule. Explaining why we can’t host a group of 8 teachers in one of our lodges for a weekend (it breaks to Rule of 6) when they all work together every day – using the same toilet and kitchen - is tricky.
I think it would be fair to say that the general public find the rules baffling – and we do too, as we welcome guests from Scotland and Wales – both of which have different rules to England!
The budget was a major helping hand for us short term – with the extension of the 5% VAT rate and also the reduction in business rates and this should help us build our business back up after 3 lockdowns and a two month stint in Tier 3.
We feel quietly confident about our reopening – although we still have a myriad of restrictions in place, which make trading difficult. The success of the vaccine rollout out, coupled with the uncertainty about foreign travel restrictions, should help the self-catering sector start to make up for some lost ground in the next few months.
We follow stringent Covid secure practises set out by the Professional Association of Self Caterers. The necessary training, risk assessments, policies and procedures to operate a Covid Secure establishment are all supported by certification from both Visit England and The AA.
To find out more about the current Covid restrictions in England you can visit the Government website here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do
Emma Downey | Founder , Women Who Do
Emma can be found glued to her laptop/kindle or embarking on her next favourite hobby. Avid cake-eater, Disney-superfan and passionate about female empowerment, Emma founded WWD in 2017. She's currently travelling around Europe in her converted camper van and eating far too many croissants.
You can contact Emma: firstname.lastname@example.org
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