‘Together, we’ll come back stronger than ever’: Manchester’s hospitality industry tackles coronavirus with creative genius

Greater Manchester’s hospitality industry is being forced to find new ways to deliver services, after the government advised the public to “avoid pubs [and] clubs” on Monday.

While London pubs and restaurants were today instructed to close due to fears over the spread of coronavirus, their Manchester counterparts have been left in limbo, as provisional permission to stay open is countered by efforts to banish their customer base.  

In a letter to City Centre MP, Lucy Powell, this week, the Manchester Pub and Club Network railed against the “vagueness” of the government’s announcement, arguing that it “has left venues unable to act on contracts and/or make insurance claims.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has since pledged £330billion in loans to those affected, along with a year-long suspension of business rates for all retailers.

He also promised to boost cash grants for small firms from £3,000 to £10,000, and assured worried business owners that the government advice will enable them to claim on their insurance.

While these provisions may be reassuring in the long-term, in the short-term, many pubs, bars and restaurants will still find it nigh on impossible to keep themselves ticking over, as our streets empty and footfall plummets.

This has caused the temporary shutdown of some of the city’s best-known names, including the Albert Hall and O2 Ritz. However, many other businesses, undaunted by this period of adversity, have set about developing ingenious ways of staying connected with their customers.

Band on the Wall, the Northern Quarter venue, which has been bringing music to Manchester for over 200 years, has announced: “The show [will] go on” – online.

Gavin Sharp, CEO, said that although the team are now in “musical self-isolation”, they will be launching a series of “live-streamed performances, online gig watch-alongs […], behind-the scenes-content, a YouTube choir, and lots more.”

Over in Salford, Seven Brothers Brewery and Four Sisters Distillery, conscious of people’s efforts at social distancing, have set up a drive-thru collection point outside their premises.

Now, without having to get out of their car, customers can stock up on their favourite beer and spirits, perhaps in readiness for one of Band on the Wall’s online events.

For the establishments that don’t have the option to move outdoors or online, PR agency, Roland Dransfield, has teamed up with night-time economy advisor Sacha Lord to create a “pay it forward” scheme.

This will allow people to buy discounted vouchers for a range of different Manchester restaurants, that they can redeem when things begin returning to normal.

Roland Dransfield hopes that this initiative will provide a lifeline for the hospitality workers who will never see the benefits of government loans and business rate holidays.

For this reason, the price of each voucher will include a £1 donation to Hospitality Action, a charity aiming to give financial assistance to the bartenders, chefs, concierges and waiters who may find themselves out of a job, or who are struggling to tide themselves over during this crisis.

Of course, only time will tell whether these measures will succeed. When Manchester opens its doors and we emerge into the world once again, we may find that we have lost some of the city’s most precious social attractions.

However, with social media and online resources allowing people to pull together even when they are apart, this could also be the beginning of an exciting period of innovation and solidarity in the hospitality industry.

Maybe it’s true that, as the Band on the Wall team promise, “together, we’ll come back stronger than ever.”

Image courtesy of Manchester Wire via Twitter, with thanks.

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