I have no doubt the High Streets and town centres of Brentwood, Ongar, Shenfield, North Weald, Ingatestone, West Horndon and Abridge will be busier this weekend as the latest lifting of lockdown restrictions allows restaurants, pubs, libraries and churches to reopen – albeit under strict COVID secure guidance.
I spent some time walking around the shops of Brentwood and Ongar last week, chatting to business owners about the challenges of reopening. I know life has been hard for High Street stores for some time – the popularity of online shopping is a blessing and a curse, depending on your needs as a shopper and your flexibility as a business – and three months with no footfall has made things immeasurably harder.
Thankfully the Government has made world-class levels of support available through furlough and various loans – and last Friday it was reassuring to hear businesspeople say how helpful these interventions had been and how supportive Brentwood Borough Council has been throughout the crisis.
In July I’m hoping to hold a Zoom meeting with independent businesses based on Brentwood High Street to bring together the experience of local shopkeepers to hear ideas about how we can power the recovery in the months ahead. If you’d like to be involved, please do get in touch.
A great many – a very great many – are looking forward to the reopening of pubs on 4 July. This will be a new experience – table service, placing orders by app and paying by contactless methods where possible and a one in, one out system for the loos. And if organising all that was not enough, there’s a lot of old beer lurking in pubs. Various methods of disposing of spoilt beer are being considered, not least re-purposing it for animal feed. So if you see some merry cows, inebriated hens or passed out pigs in the next couple of weeks, you know why.
Please observe all the very necessary safety precautions as you enjoy the lifting of lockdown – but please also get out there and support the local High Streets, they need your custom now more than ever.