With bars, restaurants and cafes opening indoors for the first time on Monday, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is visiting Liverpool city region venues that secured cash lifelines. Tony McDonough reports
Newly-elected Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is visiting hospitality venues that have secured cash lifelines from a £44m fund as they fully reopen after lockdown.
Despite concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 Indian variant, the Government has allowed businesses such as bars, restaurants and cafes to fully reopen, indoors and out, from Monday.
Hospitality businesses across Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton were hit hard by multiple lockdowns over the past 12 months. It is hoped the rollout of the vaccine means no more lockdowns will be needed.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has made available a vital £44m lifeline to almost 4,000 businesses hit hard by the pandemic, through a range of grants delivered to businesses by the city region’s six local authorities.
Initially targeted at hard-hit hospitality and retail businesses, the grants have also been available to all businesses that have seen a 40% cut in their sales or revenue. The Combined Authority has worked closely with the local authorities, who have made sure the money has reached the businesses that need it.
Mayor Rotheram said: “Throughout the last year, I’ve been working tirelessly to protect our region against COVID and put us in the strongest possible foundations to build on. We’ve spent tens of millions of pounds supporting the local economy, safeguarding thousands of local jobs and businesses.
“It’s fantastic to visit some of the businesses we’ve been able to help – some of whom might not still be here without our support – to see how they’re getting on and spend a few quid. It’d be fantastic if we could give our local businesses a bit of extra support over the next few weeks and months – and please be patient with their staff.”
Mr Rotheram has urged people to remain vigilant and continue, where possible, to practise social distancing and wear face masks. He added: “We have all been through an incredibly difficult period and we do not want to go back on the progress we have made together.
“The virus has not gone away and there is increasing concern about the presence of the new b.1.617 variant, first identified in India, across the country and in our region. So today we are appealing to everyone to not be complacent.”
Early on Monday, Mr Rotheram joined Knowsley Council leader Graham Morgan at Poco Bar and Cafe in Prescot. Poco has benefitted from grants from the Combined Authority’s Hospitality and Leisure Fund worth £14,400.
Rich Sutton, joint owner of Poco Bar and Café, said: “The last year has been hugely challenging and would have been for any business. The financial support we have received from the Combined Authority was a real lifeline and one of the main reasons we are still here today. “
The Metro Mayor later visited Lunya Liverpool on Hanover Street, which also benefitted from emergency grants from the Combined Authority, worth £96,000. Lunya owner, Peter Kinsella said: “It’s impossible to overstate how difficult a year this has been.
“We have been able to keep our online business going but it has been heart-breaking to see our restaurants in Liverpool temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions. In these challenging times the support from the Combined Authority has been vital.”
Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, added: “Liverpool prides itself on the world class welcome it offers and our hospitality sector is a huge part of that, as well as being a major driver of our economy.
“We’ve been doing all we can to support our pubs, bars and restaurants, as we saw in the Without Walls scheme, and it is wonderful to see them able to reopen properly.”