'Nightmare November' in store for businesses and tourism across Lancashire
Business owners and tourism chiefs in Lancashire were today bracing themselves for a nightmare November as a new national lockdown looms.
The dreaded Halloween announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
Business and tourism chiefs, already reeling from months of restrictions, reacted with alarm as a new lockdown comes into force on Thursday.
And some fear it may be the final straw for many cash-strapped businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.
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Blackpool's tourism industry has been particularly hit by the pandemic.
The county's tourism agency, Visit Lancashire, tweeted: "We are absolutely heartbroken as we try to come to terms with the impact that COVID-19 has had on our country once again
"Our prime concern, as always, is the health and well-being of our visitors and residents, as well as the businesses that look after them so brilliantly."
Chief executive Rachel McQueen said later: "We really need to know what support will be available, plus if and how businesses will be able to access the extra support that was to be made available when we went into tier 3, the impact of which has already been taking its toll.
"We are tracking all announcements and will share any news with you as soon as we have it."
British Chambers of Commerce Director General Adam Marshall said: “There’s no getting around the fact that these new restrictions will be a devastating blow to business communities who have done everything in their power to adapt and operate safely.
“Business and market confidence have been hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach taken by governments across the UK over the past eight months, with little end in sight. Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions."
He welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme and added: “We will be examining the detail of new restrictions and support carefully over the coming days, together with Chamber business leaders across the country.
"Business communities will judge them on whether they are clear and evidence-based - and on whether businesses are able to see when these restrictions may come to an end.”
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said a second national lockdown marks the start of a “bleak midwinter” for many businesses.
She said: “Lockdown is a decision for Government, not business, and firms share the Prime Minister’s ambition to defeat the virus. But for many businesses, a second national lockdown marks the start of a bleak midwinter.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Blackpool-headquartered Federation of Small Businesses, said small businesses would be "hugely disappointed" by the lockdown.
He said the move would be "devastating" for many thousands of businesses.
Mr Cherry said: "Small businesses have followed the guidance, protected the health of their staff and customers, and invested in making their business COVID-safe.
“Today’s announcement, however necessary, will inevitably leave many small firms facing the bleakest winter they have ever seen and the second deep recession in twelve months. Urgent clarity is needed on how small businesses and the self-employed will be supported through this."
In Preston, the popular New Continental pub was among the first to say goodbye to its regulars.
A spokesman said: “We will of course be closing from Thursday 5th onwards.
“We’d like to take this chance to once again thank each and every customer that has continued to support The Conti in these difficult times.......and we look forward to welcoming you back, hopefully in the not too distant!"
Jade Barson, owner of Green Pheasant Gifts, Winckley St, Preston, opened her business just two weeks before the March national coronavirus lockdown.
Now she is hoping online business will keep her going for the next month
"We are still here and our online shop is open. I hope people will continue to use us," she said.
CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: “A second lockdown is a devastating blow for an industry that is currently on its knees.
"Pubs have already invested thousands to reopen COVID-safe environments despite facing seriously reduced incomes.
"Simply put, the new lockdown couldn’t come at a worse time."
Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: “The Chancellor is right to extend furlough but there is still not enough certainty for businesses to plan.
"The Northern Powerhouse Partnership supports these efforts, but by extending the support beyond the end of the national lockdown, we can allow businesses to protect more viable jobs. The uncertainty has been avoided by near neighbours like in France and in Germany.
“The recovery still needs be planned and we cannot afford to put off building back better. Many unviable jobs have already been lost and there is now a large number of people looking for employment."