Cherry Reds closes after attempting takeaway service during coronavirus outbreak
A popular Birmingham city centre cafe has closed its doors after attempts to keep going by providing takeaway meals could have made it difficult for staff to benefit from the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
Like many cafes, bars and restaurants affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, independent cafe bar Cherry Reds had to resort to finding alternatives to keep business going after the government advised members of the public to stay clear of social spaces. This includes large gatherings and, more recently, most hospitality venues.
In a bid to continue trading, the cafe in John Bright Street initially offered customers the opportunity to eat and drink at distance from others or take away pre-made and packaged meals and beverages. They introduced reduced hours, 10am to 3pm, but were adamant on maintaining a regular service, albeit limited.
On Tuesday (March 17), management at Cherry Reds announced: “It’s been a disheartening day after the PM’s announcement yesterday. We’re being proactive with our decision making, and will be staying open just with a couple of changes.
“If you are feeling well and want to come in and see us for a coffee/bite to eat/beer, please be following NHS hygiene guidance as strictly as possible. Our loyal customer base and beautiful Cherry’s Staff Team’s health is paramount to us.”
Public were additionally encouraged to buy gift vouchers over the phone, paying with their card and then having the voucher sent to their home in the post for later use.
However, as the government guidelines became more stringent over the last few days, the cafe was forced to offer patrons kerb-side collections of orders to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.
“We’re facing an uncertain climate, and with out government essentially shutting down our wonderful industry without any kind of support, it leaves a lot of us small businesses in a position where our insurance is useless and we are relying on our customers to keep us going.
“We’re still wrapping our head around this reality, but there is a big silver lining. Our wonderful Birmingham Brummie Bab community is really pulling together and supporting each other.”
After Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak yesterday announced the government will temporarily pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cherry Reds has now closed its doors until the foreseeable future.
The government has pledged to pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month. This allows the Birmingham cafe and similar retail businesses an opportunity to seek some financial protection.
Described as “unprecedented”, the measures aim to stop workers being laid off due to the coronavirus crisis.
Sunak made the announcement shortly after Boris Johnson told restaurants and bars to shut in a bid to prevent spreading the virus. Firms across the UK have warned the virus could see them collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs.
Local businesses like Cherry Reds will have to apply for the temporary business support scheme, which includes deferring VAT and income Tax payments, a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England; and small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief.
We thought we’d give takeaway a go to keep some life going, but seems it conflicts with staff benefitting from the job retention scheme.
We’re now closed for the foreseeable
Best of luck all
See you on the other side 🍻🍒
— Cherry Reds (@ilovecherryreds) March 21, 2020
A spokesperson for the central Birmingham eatery said: “We thought we’d give takeaway a go to keep some life going, but seems it conflicts with staff benefitting from the job retention scheme. ”
On Wednesday (March 18), iconic Birmingham pub Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath also took the “difficult decision” to close to the public, in a bid to heed government advice, but were fearful of the impact it would have on their future.
Like many independent and small businesses in the city, management at the famous pub could not promise they’d open again but hoped to see their customers again on the other side of the current coronavirus crisis.
To find out more about applying for the government’s Job Retention Scheme and business support during COVID-19, click here.