We run the Old Inn, Widecombe In The Moor. We have a team of 15 staff, most of which have been with us for a good few years. We took over in 2014 and have seen the business make remarkable growth since the introduction of a localised menu, based on real chefs preparing fresh food and sourcing ingredients from surrounding towns and villages.
We are a seasonal business which sees trade double in some weeks between March and September. Winter is a struggle, but you get by in the knowledge that next summer is only months away. Weekends are busy year round, but they only literally carry you from week to week.
On the 19th March 2020 we were ordered for the good of our customers and staff alike to cease trading and close our doors. After and dreadful long, wet winter we were anticipating a fantastic spring trading opportunity. Mothers day was upon us, Easter was in the distance, all was looking up. Then Covid 19 hit, and what should be our chance to trade and earn enough money to see us through to next year was whipped from underneath us.
Here at the Old Inn, we are a very seasonal business with a monster of a building, big enough to house 200 guests at any one time. This has its obvious advantages in the summer when Widecombe is alive with tourists and recreational visitors, but, the summer can be short and the winters can be long, and keeping that business going for the entire year has its costs, and big ones at that.
Its okay we thought, the government have promised to help, No business will go under they said. It soon became apparent that any financial help did not apply to us, we were just that little bit too big and pay just a touch too much business rates to qualify for any of the Grants going. So, it is now on us to save our business,and we are asking you guys for help.
Dont get us wrong, what the government are doing for those that are getting the help is fantastic, and we appreciate there has to be a cut off somewhere, its just gutting when you are on the wrong side of the threshold, and you see everything you have worked for drip away slowly but surely.
Unlike the other food outlets in our little tourist village, we do not receive the £25k to account for business interruption, so we are appealing on Crowdfunder to help raise this amount. We are applying for loans, but they will take weeks to process, in the mean time we are out of cash and the loans, well they are loans and will somehow eventually have to be paid back. Also, how much do you borrow?? enough to keep your head above water, enough to keep you going to June, to July, maybe August?? Who knows!
Our other issue we then face is, how do we get through the winter without the summer takings from the season to rely on? The overseas tourists we rely on at this time of year will not be coming, and will the Brits be able to make up the lost numbers of French, German, Scandinavian, American and Australian tourists we see on a daily basis. We have already lost our twice weekly coach tour contract for this year of foreign guests which would now be visiting every week till October, 30-40 diners on each visit. Their usual tour of Britain concludes at the Old Inn for a best of British 2 course menu.
We recently applied for a Rural Relief Grant of £10k to just help pay some outstanding bills and pay some suppliers (local food suppliers, and farms) who in turn are trying to stay a float, but we can't give them what we do not have.
We then took to thinking of trying to trade through take away food services. Those of you who know Widecombe will understand the population is not that big.
In order to make it work we would need to appeal to our wider customer base, and unfortunately that would encourage non essential travel up onto the moors, and we do not want to be held responsible for the trouble and fines customers could receive from authorities, as we do not think a take away meal from The Old Inn can sadly be passed as essential. Also everyone is doing such a fantastic job of staying at home, it would be unfair of us to offer up temptation to disrupt this.
Anyway, that is our shot at receiving help from the people that have kept us trading for the last 6 years. If you can spare something, no matter how much it all adds up and goes towards the chance of us opening as a business again once this ordeal is over and covid-19 has been defeated.
Best wishes, stay safe and stay sane!
Andrew, Richard and all the team