Hospitality firm not eligible for any of Chancellor's cash

Business owner Justin Gilchrist can appreciate the irony, albeit through gritted teeth. His company, South Catering, is not eligible for any of the Government's hospitality grants. 

Before the pandemic hit, the Manchester-based business was one of the leading caterers for corporate launches, conferences and meetings in the North West. Now business is at a standstill. 

'We're not retail or hospitality enough,' says Justin. 'If we were a bar or a restaurant we'd get more help, but we fall through the gaps. A lot of similar businesses to ourselves have already closed.' 

Running dry: Chancellor Rishi Sunak¿s handouts have not helped many hospitality firms

Running dry: Chancellor Rishi Sunak's handouts have not helped many hospitality firms

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Last week, in the wake of the latest lockdown, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new retail, hospitality and leisure grant worth up to £9,000 per property and an additional £594million discretionary fund. But business leaders warn that many firms will still be left without vital support. 

Across the events and hospitality industry, there are thousands of businesses who are falling through the gaps – and missing out on the Government loans and grants. 

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), says: 'The package announced in recent days just won't be enough for businesses already on the brink. There remain too many groups who need more financial support to weather this storm. 

'They include the newly self-employed, those in supply chains and company directors.

'Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it is vital we support them in every way until the crisis finally begins to ease.' 

South Catering had a target to double its turnover last year. But once lockdown began in March 'business fell off a cliff'. 

The firm was deemed too big for a 'bounce back' loan. Initially rejected for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme, Justin finally secured one with a different lender – although South Catering was rejected for all the business grants (see box, at foot of page).

Justin kept the business afloat by furloughing staff, downgrading his planned house purchase and using personal savings.

He then realigned the business to launch wellboxes.co.uk, which sends gifts to staff working from home, including a festive hamper with prosecco and a threecourse Christmas dinner. 

It was so successful that Justin shipped tens of thousands of orders in less than three weeks. He says: 'It's the only reason I'm still going.' 

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Ellen Miller has not qualified for any grants because she only launched her business in October 2019 and doesn't have business premises. 

She set up Leeds Food Tours to follow her passion for food. The business had got off to a great start, but with tours largely out of the question since March last year, Ellen has been forced to mothball the business and instead work in a delivery firm's call centre. 

'I understand there's a limit on what the Government can do, but I would have loved to have got some financial support,' says Ellen, who is now busy launching a sustainable clothing company called Daylight

'A lot of businesses don't need premises to operate from and I think they've been unfairly overlooked by Government.' 

Sole trader Kate Tynan had more luck with grants because she had just moved her cake business – Little Button Bakery – into a studio in Marple, Greater Manchester, when the first lockdown hit. 

Lucky: Sole trader Kate Tynan had more luck with grants

Lucky: Sole trader Kate Tynan had more luck with grants

'It was supposed to be my best ever year and it turned out to be the worst,' says Kate. 'I lost my whole market overnight.' 

Kate was able to get the first business grant of £10,000 thanks to having a business studio. 

But she didn't qualify for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme. 'It's been hard,' she says. 'I was lucky to have premises, but many in the business work from home and they don't qualify for the grants. 

'It's really frustrating – it's as if people in Government don't understand how businesses

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