Town centres benefit from Christmas spend - but concerns for hospitality firms
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich town centres are bustling after shops reopened – but there are fears for the hospitality industry.
In the countdown to Christmas, people have returned to these centres to spend their money in shops, however pubs and restaurants are suffering because of Tier 2 rules, business leaders have said.
In Bury St Edmunds, footfall has improved post-lockdown – and there are hopes this will continue up to Christmas Day.
There were 11,020 visitors on Saturday, December 5 – the first Saturday after lockdown - compared to 9,406 the previous Saturday.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bury Business Improvement District (BID) group, said: “It won’t be as busy as it would have been because of Covid and lockdowns, but we appear to be recovering quite well, but the hospitality sector are the ones biggest hit.”
He said hospitality firms were reporting lots of cancellations as people had booked before Tier 2.
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Under Tier 2 rules, only people of the same household can visit for table service and the 'rule of six' (which allows six members of different households to come together) applies outdoors.
Pubs, restaurants and cafés also have to serve substantial meals to be able to serve alcohol.
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Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central BID, shared Mr Cordell’s concerns.
He said: “The town centre has been busy after the shops and everything else reopened, but the biggest single issue is the pubs and restaurants are significantly disadvantaged in Tier 2 compared to Tier 1.”
He said spend is good at town centre shops and businesses, but people are not staying as long.
“The lockdown has been damaging, but we have rebounded fairly nicely, but we are damaged by this Tier 2 status,” he said.
Mr Cordell said Bury businesses are reporting that takings are generally up after the latest lockdown, and added 11 new businesses have opened or are about to open in the town centre since November.
Bury’s BID group Our Bury St Edmunds is behind attractions including an elf trail and festive shop window competition, which it hopes will help bring people in.
And to further support the town centre, a free park and ride service by Bury St Edmunds Town Council and Mulleys runs on Saturday, December 12, and Saturday, December 19, from the West Suffolk Council-owned Olding Road car park.
The first bus leaves at 8.30am and the last bus back from the bus station (bay nine) is 7.30pm.
Footfall in Bury St Edmunds is 33% down for the year to date compared to 2019.