IT hit me straight on, knocking me off balance like the most destructive TripAdvisor review you could ever receive.
Boris Johnson tells the country: “Stop non-essential contact with others….
“Avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues…”
Here was the Prime Minister ordering people to stay away from my café, to dodge The Glost House.
Whatever crisis the country was facing, at that moment in time it felt like a very personal attack on my business.
What was I supposed to do? Would people listen? Should I throw in the towel? What about tomorrow’s deliveries?
How dare he tell not just the people of Longton, the residents of Stoke-on-Trent, but the whole country not to visit my café? What had we done so wrong?
At the time I was online to my business coach. “Boris has just put a nail in it,” I typed furiously while trying to listen to the rest of his briefing.
This year, 2020, was supposed to be a year full of promise, a year of change, a year of plans, most importantly a year of action.
Suddenly, in just a few short sentences, it all seemed hopeless.
Four days later, we were told, quite rightly, to shut.
Frankly, it was a relief. It became obvious over that week beginning March 16 that Number 10 had some sort of rolling lock down planned, drip feeding the idea to the nation day-by-day, teasing the notion that soon none of us would be able to go about our lives in the same way.
Perhaps – and it could be argued that some people’s actions have been proof of this – our Government didn’t have enough faith in us as a community to withstand the short, sharp shock of an instant lockdown.
But from what I could see such a drawn-out, smudged message brought people out of their homes in defiance, it sparked panic buying all over again, and forced businesses in trades like hospitality to make rash decisions.
Here at The Glost House we kept going until we were told to close. In all honesty I didn’t know what else to do. All staff kept their jobs and are now furloughed. All of them have been paid despite us not yet receiving a penny of financial support, or any clear timeline of when we will.
But that week leading up to closure was heart-breaking. Cutting shifts, shaving our opening times, prepping meals we wouldn’t sell, putting the effort into ensuring we had fresh produce and supplies, finding the energy to keep our standards high, getting out of bed every single morning for what felt like such little return.
Like I say, closing is the right decision. I stand by my reasons for staying open until I received the instruction to shut. But I care about the community we serve, I care about the community of staff and customers we’ve built at The Glost House, I wouldn’t want to jeopardise that.
Before now I’ve never relied on anybody but myself to steer The Glost House. For the first time ever, it feels like I am letting loose its destiny, putting four years of damned hard work by so many people into the hands of the unknown.
That’s not to say I’m not currently hard at work, organising, planning, sorting, developing. But whatever I do, it all depends on the Government coming through for us. And I have to say it depends on it getting some of that promised support out to us soon.
Don’t let us down now.