A Government U-turn delaying the easing some coronavirus restrictions has hit the district’s wedding and beauty businesses hard.
New rules allowing wedding receptions for up to 30 people and for beauticians to carry out treatments involving close contact with people’s faces, had been scheduled to come into effect on Saturday 1st August.
However on 31st July, just hours before this was supposed to happen, the Prime Minister announced that such restrictions will now not be eased until at least 15th August.
The delay has had a significant impact on the wedding industry as many couples had been hoping to get married at the beginning of August, when the rules on receptions had been expected to be eased.
Stuart Slaughter, owner of Alcester-based Plato Catering Hire, said: “This has had a dramatic effect, within half an hour we had five cancellations for weddings. Since lockdown started we have only taken around £2,400 and all our staff have been furloughed.
“The way this has all been handled is appalling and I don’t understand why pubs are allowed to open, where you can mix with more than 30 strangers or you are allowed to sit on an aircraft with lots of passengers, yet 30 people who probably know each other well, are not allowed to attend a wedding reception together.
“We’re already losing potential orders beyond the 15th August because people are not sure whether they want to take the risk. The wedding and events industry makes all of its money between May and September, it’s looking great for next year because everyone is rescheduling, but this issue is actually keeping going until then. I’m calling for the furlough scheme to be extended for wedding and events businesses until next April, for rates to be frozen and for more grants to be made available to those who are self-employed within the industry.
“I hope we can keep going until it picks up next year, but I simply don’t know, it’s not going to be an easy ride.”
Explaining the impact on the beauty industry, Julie Richards, owner of Looking Glass Aesthetics in Stratford, said: “We had been told by the Hair and Beauty Federation that there was likely to be some updated guidance coming out last week, but we never expected this, we thought it would be just little tweaks to the rules, but this is a total nightmare.
“We spent Friday afternoon ringing up all our customers who had booked these treatments to cancel the appointments. We have been offering other treatments, but these are only about 20 per cent of our business. Because of this change, I’ve had to put all my staff back on furlough.
“All this has had such an impact on our business, We’ve worked hard to build it up over the past six years, we’ve been at regional beauty awards, but now it feels like we’ll have to start from scratch all over again. Another issue is the longer customers are not allowed to come back for these treatments, the harder it will be for them to return at all, they’ll think if the Government is not allowing these treatments, then they must be dangerous.
“I personally have no confidence that they will allow us to offer facial treatments again on the 15th, but businesses like ours need that certainty, they should be saying something concrete. I know there are some areas with higher R rates where it might be right not to offer such treatments, but it’s low in Stratford. I know there are other industries affected and my heart goes out to anyone who may have been planning a wedding on Saturday.”