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‘Soul-destroying’ - Family-run entertainment centre on not being able to fully reopen

PUBLISHED: 17:56 25 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:56 25 June 2020

JR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

JR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Archant 2020

A family-run entertainment centre has said not being able to open up parts of the business is a “soul-destroying.”

Ben Ludbrook, hospitaliity manager, at JR's in North Walsham which hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeBen Ludbrook, hospitaliity manager, at JR's in North Walsham which hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Bowling alleys, gym and soft play areas were among business that were not given the green light to reopen by the government on July 4.

The news was met with “frustration” and “disappointment” by JR’s in North Walsham which operates all three along with a diner and a maze.

JR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeJR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

For the past few weeks the business, which opened in 1978, had been preparing to reopen the bowling alley after receiving “a strong feeling it could” by the industry.

Measures planned included only every other bowling alley open, deep cleans between games and time slots.

JR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeJR's in North Walsham hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Now, though, the owners have been dealt with a “huge blow” and had to put their plans to a halt.

Jon Goodyear, operations manager at JR’s, said: “While we were not surprised that the soft play area and the gym would not reopen, I was surprised that bowling alleys had to remain shut.

A mock up by staff of how JR's restaurant will look when it reopens fully. Picture: JR's
A mock up by staff of how JR's restaurant will look when it reopens fully. Picture: JR's

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“It was really disappointing as we had put all the measures in place and done all the staff training. The news was soul destroying when you’re already struggling to hold on to your business.”

Ben Ludbrook, hospitaliity manager, at JR's in North Walsham which hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-FiskeBen Ludbrook, hospitaliity manager, at JR's in North Walsham which hoped to open again in July. Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske

JR’s was not entitled to any government grants due to its size but was able to furlough workers during lockdown.

While Mr Goodyear said the business would be able to survive, he added they would emerge with more debt then when they first started.

To keep afloat they have been offering a takeaway food service from the diner, which Mr Goodyear said “had really taken off.”

The diner will reopen on July 9, with customers asked to order food via an app.

He added: “We have no fears of survival although it will be tough. Not everything will be fine but we’ll get our head above the water and go from there.”

Mr Goodyear also had no concerns over a reduced capacity making the business unviable.

He said: “Dropping social-distancing to 1m was a huge blessing for us and we have a lot of space so we are not worried about the impact of having less through the door on turnover. We just can’t wait to reopen fully and welcome our customers back.”


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