Are we facing a ‘tsunami’ of business closures?

The Jubilee Pavilion on the Marine Parade – dreadful waste of public money

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 19 (Saturday, April 4 2020)

WITH most of the shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes closed because of the coronavirus lockdown, businesses in Lyme Regis are facing unprecedented challenges and it is feared many may never re-open.

It is a fallacy that every business in Lyme makes a fortune, despite the increasing popularity of the town. Some of the smaller shops just about scratch a living.

There are bound to be casualties, especially as the generous government financial support packages will take weeks for the money to flow.

With these thoughts in mind, it was distressing to see a tweet on social media late last night saying that some local businesses had, allegedly, already thrown in the towel.

It was posted by a reputable Exeter-based locksmith and included a photo of his vehicle parked on the Cart Road. This is what it said:

“I’m here in Lyme Regis on a lovely sunny day, but it’s not a jolly. Businesses are suffering. I am waiting to change the locks on two restaurants that have decided to hand the keys back to the bank.  

Fragile businesses my not survive. I fear a tsunami sooner or later.”

We have no idea as to the identity of the restaurants in questions, but this will send shock waves through the trading community of Lyme. It is certainly a big worry for LymeOnline, because 75 per cent of advertising revenue comes from the hospitality trade.

A new star emerges

I thought there was more point to yesterday’s No 10 press briefing, although the government’s shining star, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, failed to convince his many doubters among the critical press corps that his prediction of achieving 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April was feasible.

But a new presentation star emerged in the form of Jonathan Van Tan, professor of health protection at the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at Nottingham University. His answers to the journalists’ questions were succinct, understandable and, more important, believable.

I had come to think that the daily briefing was becoming a total waste of time. The government spokesmen banged out the same message day after day, rarely straying from the agreed script and never giving a direct answer to the questions from the press.

This clearly only served to annoy the journos even more, giving them greater incentive to demolish their credibility. And boy, have they been doing that, even those papers that support Boris.

One thing we have to accept is that not every government action to fight this invisible enemy will be successful. This is a battle against the unknown.

Very little went right for Churchill in the Second World War up until 1942 with some of the decisions he ratified costing thousands of lives. Dunkirk and Norway spring to mind. Churchill never really got over such disasters. But in the end it all came right, at a huge personal cost, but with much help from our nation’s indefatigable spirit.

We must remember we are still in the early stages of this pandemic, so we most prepare ourselves for some big disappointments – and a few cock-ups. It is important, therefore, to rekindle confidence that we will emerge stronger but with a determination to learn from the experience. Who says this won’t happen again?

I was pleased to see that Sir Keir Starmer was elected leader of the Labour Party. Let’s hope now we will have a creditable opposition, so essential in times of crisis, and I hope Boris sticks to his commitment of keeping close to all party leaders as we battle against the pandemic.They have a duty to work together.

I also hope that Starmer has the bottle to dispense with those who have brought the Labour Party into such disrepute in recent times and gives a chance for some of his highly respected women MPs who were ignored by Corbyn, people like Jess Phillips.

I took my permitted exercise walk a little later this morning to see whether the people of Lyme were following the government order (it’s not a request any more) to stay indoors. There’s no doubt in my mind that they are.

There has been no influx of second-homers that I can identify, although I did saw one camper van in Cobb Gate car park, clearly enjoying a non-essential journey.

A sense of shame

Every time I walk past the Jubilee Pavilion on Marine Parade I feel a sense of shame. The town council borrowed £500k to convert the older shelters into an amenity to include two community rooms, a lift to the upper level and inside the facility a fully-equipped display and exhibition area with an information desk.

The problem was that the council could not afford to equip it out. Step forward Chris Boothroyd, a community champion if ever there was one, who almost single-handedly raised £200,000 from grants and donations to equip the pavilion with state-of-the-art (it was then) technology.

Chris also set up a team of volunteers, including Francesca and I, to man the information point during the summer months. However, Chris was treated with appalling rudeness by the council at that time and stepped away from the project, as did most of the volunteers, including me.

Since then, the pavilion has become a glorified beach store which is a dreadful waste of public funds. I hope our new council can address this when this epidemic has been defeated and that at least the information point can re reinstated following the closure of the Tourist Information Centre.

Our first emergency digital edition of LymeOnline is up on this website now and to date 727 have read it. We are aiming for 1,500 views to help us keep what little advertising we have, so keep spreading the word.

The good thing about a digital newspaper is that we can update it with news items at any time without having to wait for our next publication date and we plan to do just that as and when the material arises.

If you want to know how Lyme is coping with coronavirus, don’t miss Francesca’s highly popular video news bulletin which can also be accessed via our Sights & Sounds platform.

This diary takes a break tomorrow (Sunday) but my blog will be back on Monday – my 21st day of self-isolation.

Stay safe – and keep positive.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 715 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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