Burnley Hospitality Hell: Burnley's longest-serving restaurateur 'disturbed' by 'unfair' closures
The owner of Burnley Indian restaurant Aroma fears several businesses across town could close for good once lockdown ends.
Abdul Majeed, who opened his first restaurant Koh-I-Noor in Manchester in 1979, said he felt incredibly sorry for any young restaurateurs starting out who could now face losing all their "investments and dreams" if the industry continues to suffer.
Mr Majeed moved to Church Street in 1987 where he opened Shalamar. Twenty years later, he completely transformed the premises, rebranding his business Aroma.
He said he does believe Burnley can come through this crisis stronger, but a lot will depend on the financial support in the coming months.
What do you miss most about being open?
During the period of over four decades I have built a very strong relationship with all my customers spread over three generations and that makes me a very strong man yet very humble.
That's what I have enjoyed most and kept me going all these years.
Since the lockdown, what I miss most is welcoming everybody walking through my doors, talking to them and enjoy watching them have a wonderful time with us.
Every time I think of retiring, and think of missing all this I change my mind and decide to carry on until my health allows me to do so.
Do you think the hospitality sector has been unfairly treated?
Since all this pandemic began, we have taken things very seriously when it comes to safety of our customers and staff.
We have been following Government guidelines and all other safety measures very seriously. It is very disturbing and disappointing that we had to close our doors for public to dine in.
The Government has been very unfair to the restaurant industry telling them to shut down like this when we have shown and displayed good discipline and control unlike many other sectors.
Restricting us to limited opening times and limited number of people inside at one time would have worked perfectly for our industry.
How much longer can your business survive lockdown?
The Government has offered good help throughout this testing time, but is it enough? Probably not for many.
Even though I am an established restaurateur I am finding it hard to go through this tough time.
I feel sorry for all my fellow restaurateurs who are under heavy commitments and the young ones who started with great enthusiasm and got caught in these unpredictable circumstances,. Perhaps they will not be able to survive, and will sadly lose all their investments and dreams.
What is your message to the Government?
Our industry is desperate for the Government to continue their help and support. They should offer more business grants, write off any deferred VAT amounts and extend the low VAT rate period for the restaurants.
The local council should carry on helping with the business rates. I fear without all these supporting steps our industry will not be able to revive or survive, and probably several businesses will have to close their doors for good.
Will Burnley bounce back stronger?
Burnley has been through rough and tough times in the past, but has always managed to bounce back nicely and strongly.
Burnley had a very bad start to the new millennium especially when the town was hit by riots. I noticed after that, Burnley went down badly.
That was the most difficult and testing time of my career and for several others.
However, I stayed positive and firm on my feet. I was always confident that things will get better in Burnley and time proved me right.
I have all the reasons to believe that Burnley will come through this crisis and bounce back stronger than ever. I look forward to the time when I am able to open my doors and welcome all my clients with a huge smile and great excitement.