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Operators struggling after grant information error

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Hands forced: pub operators in Tynemouth doubt a takeaway service will be enough to save them without more Government support
Hands forced: pub operators in Tynemouth doubt a takeaway service will be enough to save them without more Government support

Related tags: Coronavirus

A bar operator has said she is struggling to save her business after being told one of her venues is ineligible for a grant after an inaccuracy on the rates register.

Victoria Bones and her husband Stephen operate the Blind Pig and Filthy Bones bars in the Green Ginger building in Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear.

The couple’s two businesses operate across four units in the shared converted church. However, the Valuations Office Agency (VOA), did not have the two businesses registered this way on its rates register as of 11 March 2020. 

The operators were told they could only claim one grant worth £10,000, which Victoria said has left them in an “absolute nightmare”, with the pressure of rent payments increasing.

Bones said in communications with the VOA, she was directed on how to register the businesses correctly and had sent her council evidence that the two businesses operated separately.

Doesn’t qualify

However, North Tyneside Council said it was unable to use its discretion to make more than one grant available to the operators.

North Tyneside Council head of regeneration and economic development John Sparkes said: “The application was assessed in strict accordance with Government guidelines and, unfortunately, she doesn’t qualify for the Small Business Grants Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

“Our business support team is now considering ways further help can be provided.”

Bones believes under the central Government’s guidance for local authorities on the coronavirus grant scheme, the council could decide to award funding.

The guidance states: “In cases where it was factually clear to the local authority on the 11 March 2020 that the rating list was inaccurate on that date, local authorities may withhold the grant and/or award the grant based on their view of who would have been entitled to the grant had the list been accurate.”

The couple have launched a click-and-collect service but are not confident it will be enough to meet rent payments moving forward.

Victoria said: “We’re now having our hands forced and trying to turn operations around to pay our month-on-month bills. We’re trying to save the business. People are saying we should get a loan but why should we? The information [the council] have is incorrect and the Government is saying ‘use your discretion’.

“I don't know how even feasible it would be to generate enough income to keep paying the overheads.”

Future fears

The communal nature of the building means Bones feels little optimism that her bars will be among the first to reopen this summer owing to the reduced occupancy that would be needed to open. 

She added: “Unless Government assistance comes forward, how do we continue and go on? I feel like I have a ticking time bomb around my neck. Every day we’re unable to secure any financial assistance, the rent is backing up on it.”

A VOA spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.”

The authority confirmed if there are multiple properties on one site performing different functions or in different occupations, they all need to be separately assessed.

It said if a new property should have been in the list on or before 11 March, the VOA can use that date to backdate the assessment.

Bones said there was some hope with an additional top-up funding scheme introduced by the Government. An 5% additional funding is to be used for small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs that are not already eligible for the retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund.

The Government has asked local authorities to prioritise businesses in shared spaces and regular market traders among those considered.

Related topics: Property law, UnitedWeStand

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