Ongoing closure of popular Barrowford restaurant leaving owner depressed

The desperate owner of a Pendle Indian restaurant has expressed his frustration that he must keep his doors closed as the borough prepares to enter the toughest Tier 3 restrictions.

Mr Nurul Hoque, who has owned the popular Bombay Lounge restaurant in Barrowford for 10 years, spoke to Leader Times about his financial worries and admitted he cannot see it opening again this year.

Yet despite a difficult year, Bombay Lounge has provided 1,000 free meals to NHS frontline staff and key workers, treating 45 companies including local hospitals, care homes, police and fire stations during the pandemic.

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Following two national lockdowns this year, as well as some of the toughest restrictions in the country, Pendle's hospitality industry is now facing further uncertainty having been ordered to stay shut, with the normally busy Christmas period looming.

Nurul Hoque outside the Bombay Lounge restaurant in BarrowfordNurul Hoque outside the Bombay Lounge restaurant in Barrowford
Nurul Hoque outside the Bombay Lounge restaurant in Barrowford

Admitting that Government help does not even cover his rent, Mr Hoque said the situation was leaving him depressed.

"I just want to open my restaurant and go to work as normal," he said.

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"Like most restaurants, we have done everything asked of us in terms of providing a safe environment. Bomaby Lounge is a big size and so we could comfortably sit 60 people at a safe distance. I even got rid of sofas in the restaurant lounge to create more space.

"The news that Pendle will be going back in to Tier 3 was a real blow. I'm depressed and fed up. It seems unfair as we all know shops and supermarkets will be packed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but we can't open."

Restaurants are allowed to operate a takeaway service under the new restrictions, but Mr Hoque said take-out prices means he would barely break even.

"It doesn't seem worth opening for takeaway. It is not something I have pushed as it doesn't feel worth it. Takeaways account for about 25% of my business, but dining in the restaurant obviously also includes beer sales.

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"I employ 10 staff who I have to think about and have had to cancel my weekly entertainment which was planned for December. This has had a knock-on effect for so many people."

Mr Hoque said he was lucky in that his landlord was very understanding but believed others would not be so fortunate.

"I understand why the Government has felt it needed to keep schools open but personally I would have closed colleges and universities. We all know this is where the virus is spreading in big numbers. I just want to serve my loyal customers again in a safe environment."