Bolton businesses should not be 'worse off'

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Furlough boost: Bolton publicans have said they face tough decisions about the future of their businesses (image: JThomas, Geograph)
Furlough boost: Bolton publicans have said they face tough decisions about the future of their businesses (image: JThomas, Geograph)

Related tags Bolton Greater manchester Legislation Rent Star pubs & bars Jd wetherspoon

Publicans and Bolton Council have called for an extension of the existing furlough scheme after a localised shutdown of hospitality was ordered in the town.

Venues in Bolton were ordered to close and operate as takeaways only after it recorded 120 confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. 

There are 178 properties registered as public houses or pub restaurants and eight wine bars in the Greater Manchester town, according to real estate advisor Altus Group.

Pubs have called on the Government to extend the support available from its furlough scheme to cover 80% of staff wages.

Ineligible staff

The Government will pay up to 70% of staff wages for this month, reducing to 60% in October with employers asked to contribute a small amount as the scheme winds down.

Jon-Paul Nolan operates the wet-led House Without A Name pub in the town and said he is faced with making a tough call on his team.

“My staff that were furloughed previously are also eligible for furlough again but one new member of staff will not be. I have to make a decision on what to do in their instance,” he explained.

Pubs can claim if they have previously furloughed an employee for three consecutive weeks between March 1 and 30 June, and submitted their claim before 31 July.

Nolan said he was assured by news that businesses in England forced to close in targeted coronavirus restrictions can now receive grants worth up to £1,500 every three weeks.

These payments are currently available in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham as part of an ongoing trial scheme but are expected to be rolled out to Bolton too.

But Bolton Council said businesses should be no worse off in this scheme than under the original furlough arrangements.

The right thing

Council leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh said: “We recognise the enormous hardship faced by everyone working in the hospitality sector and I am pleased that the Government has announced some support.

“However, we want to ensure that businesses will be no worse off in this scheme than under the original furlough arrangements

“We will be looking into the finer detail of this scheme and continuing to press the Government to do the right thing for our businesses.”

Another operator unsure of what to do is Miguel Estevao, who operates the Wilmont Arms, Belmont. “Without any money coming in, I’m going to spend more money now,” he said. “And then for how long? I don’t know what to do."

He agreed there needed to be more support for pubs in his position. We are a big facility here, we couldn’t apply for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) as our rateable value was too high. I feel very frustrated.”

Rent support

Pub companies have revealed how they are supporting their sites in Bolton.

Star Pubs & Bars said it would not be charging rent for any of its 12 sites in the town.

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director for Star Pubs & Bars said: “We have supported all our leased and tenanted pubs through Covid-19 and continue to do so. 

He added: “Where our pubs are subject to local lockdowns as directed by their Local Authority, we will provide further localised support depending on the circumstances in that area.”

Ei Group said it was working with its nine sites in the town on an individual basis and was taking a “measured and pragmatic approach” to Government advice.

An Ei Publican Partnerships spokesperson said: “Our overall publican support spend to date is in excess of £32.5m and for our nine impacted pubs in Bolton we will continue to work with the publicans on an individual basis to ensure that they are in the best possible position to reopen for their local communities when it is safe to do so.”

JD Wetherspoon - which has two sites, The Spinning Mule and The Robert Shaw, in the town - has redeployed its management staff to work in other sites outside Bolton.

“All members of hourly paid staff will be paid in full until the end of the week and will be placed on furlough from Monday 14 September, unless they have elected to take holiday,” a spokesperson added.

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