In October, the family-run Clocktower cafe in Sidmouth wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to make a decision on the hospitality industry.

Owned by husband and wife duo Steward and Justine Fraser, they have spoke of the struggles the cafe were facing trying ‘jump through hoops’ to adhere to government guidelines.

However, after the announcement of a second national lockdown happening earlier this month, The Clock Tower decided to close its doors, which is the first time the business has had to do so in 30 years.

They are hoping to open by March 2021 in reaction to the furlough scheme extension.

Stewart told DevonLive how the government and local councils need to ‘wake up, get a grip of this and let’s have some certainty.’

Steward said: “The people making these rules are the people that sit in their ivory towers and know full well that these rules have no effect on them whatsoever, not financially, not personally and to be perfectly honest a lot of them just wave two fingers to this and we’ve seen this happen in Dominic Cummings.

“They have no answer and are not brought to book and are not fined, but the little cafe who breaks the rules accidentally gets a £1000 or £10,000 fine! it’s disgusting, the people at the top need to wake up.”

Stewart stated that since the start of the pandemic their business has received little to no help and claim the local authority is ‘working against them.’

“We’ve written to Simon Jupp our local MP who hasn’t had the decency to reply to us and we’ve even contacted the Prime Minister, again- no response.

“These people now need to wake up, get a grip of this and let’s have some certainty.”

On November 26 it was announced that when the second national lockdown comes to an end on December 2, Devon will be placed into a tier 2 system with stricter regulations.

Although this means the hospitality industry can now re-open under new guidelines, there are still places that will have to remain shut as they don’t meet the guidelines to open.

Steward continued: “This system is utter trash it didn’t work from the start, nobody knows what they should be doing in any of the tiers. There is no support for businesses now that we’ve gone past that initial grant, we now get something like £1,300 a month which is just a joke.

“It’s just shocking, the tiered system doesn’t work. You cannot stop people moving from tier to tier and Christmas now is going to be an absolute shambles for the sake of families spending 2-3 days together we’re prepared to compromise not just the hospitality industry but every industry in this country for the next 3-4 months. It’s misguided, it’s incorrect and it’s just being done totally incorrectly.”

The Clocktower team

During the second lockdown there have been some businesses that have flouted the rules and as a result, have landed large fines.

Most recently a cafe in Paignton was fined £1000 by authorities after they continued to serve customers inside the premises.

Similar to this Tavistock Police raided a pub on Friday night (November 20) after it was found to be having a lock-in during lockdown.

Before the second national lockdown there were five licensed premises across Torbay including two in Brixham, one in Torquay and one in Paignton who were fined £1000 for not sticking to the 10pm curfew.

On this, Steward disagrees that fines are being given to businesses trying to survive as there have been instances of government members breaking the rules and have yet to have any repercussions.

He said: “Fines are being dished out to people trying to do business that their not sure what the business model is and not sure how they should be operating. To kick people in the teeth dishing out more fines when they’re already struggling to keep their businesses going is appalling.

“Why should we as a business be made to go deeper and deeper into debt to keep our business going when it wasn’t our choice to close in the first place. We shouldn’t be forced to borrow money to keep our business going, it’s not acceptable, these bounce back loans needs to be looked into, the insurance system needs to be looked into, there’s no support for limited companies, there’s been nothing.

“We’ve been totally ignored and that’s not right.”

In regards to what the future holds, Stewart told us how he would like to see more people in the government who represent the hospitality industry.

“Like Gordon Ramsey or somebody who has a little bit of bite in there to have a think tank who can work on our behalf with the government as they’re clueless.

“I hope we get some sort of consistency and that some plan is put in place, so that if it comes around again there is something stringent in place that creates certainty.”





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