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‘A tough moral judgement’ - Cromer’s businesses weigh up re-opening as lockdown eased

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:02 20 May 2020

Chairman of Cromer's Chamber of Trade, Sam Grout, outside his cafe The Old Rock Shop Bistro. Photo: Chris Taylor

Chairman of Cromer's Chamber of Trade, Sam Grout, outside his cafe The Old Rock Shop Bistro. Photo: Chris Taylor

Copyright christaylorphoto.co.uk

To open or not to open - this is the moral dilemma faced by many Cromer businesses as the nation enters a more “relaxed” phase of lockdown.

Donna and John Lee at Hot Rocks, Cromer. Picture: Eleanor PringleDonna and John Lee at Hot Rocks, Cromer. Picture: Eleanor Pringle

As a coastal town heavily dependent on revenue brought in by day-trippers, Sam Grout - President at Cromer Chamber of Trade - said that businesses are having to tread a thin line between “making sure the town isn’t overrun” and “the prospect of retaining their livelihoods”.

He said: “It’s a difficult moral judgement and it’s something that North Norfolk District Council, in consultation with the Chamber of Trade and town council - is trying to work out.

“I know that legally my own business, The Old Rock Shop Bistro on Hamilton Road, could have been open for takeaways this entire time.

“There’s been a few times where we’ve considered re-opening but haven’t. I’m not sure the public mood is supportive of that yet.

The Grove Guesthouse pictured with owner, Richard Graveling.  Picture: MARK BULLIMOREThe Grove Guesthouse pictured with owner, Richard Graveling. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

But, he added, the reality is that “every business in Cromer is in some way dependent on holiday makers”.

He said: “We do need people to visit, but that has to be done in a safe and managed way.”

Likewise, for John Lee, owner of Hot Rocks restaurant and J Lee Crabstall, opening up his restaurant has so far seemed “pointless”, despite lockdown restrictions being eased.

He said: “There’d be no point in me opening for deliveries if there’s no demand - so we’re shut for now and probably won’t be open for quite some time yet until the government says we can.”

Claire Davies and Louise Hyde of Davies Fish Shop at the Crab and Lobster Festival.
Picture: KAREN BETHELLClaire Davies and Louise Hyde of Davies Fish Shop at the Crab and Lobster Festival. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

On the other hand, his crab stall has reopened, albeit with reduced hours and only on certain days.

Mr Lee said: “May is normally a brilliant month for the town, and I was gutted to miss the Crab and Lobster Festival.

“But there are still people who want to drive into Cromer and take a fresh crab home for dinner. We had a lot of customers last weekend and are waiting to see what happens this Bank Holiday weekend.

“People need to have more confidence in both each other and those coming to visit.

Julie Davies from the family business Davies Fish shop, demonstrates dressing a crab at the Crab and Lobster Festival at Cromer in 2017. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJulie Davies from the family business Davies Fish shop, demonstrates dressing a crab at the Crab and Lobster Festival at Cromer in 2017. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“My crab stall is surrounded by seven cottages - some of which are probably holiday homes - and they’ve all been empty this entire time.

“Even when people do come into the town, they’re all social distancing and respecting local people.”

For Richard Graveling, owner of the Grove Hotel, it was clear from the outset that businesses in Cromer decided they “couldn’t morally be party to a massive influx of visitors” - with many closing before they needed to.

But with government guidance suggesting that hotels may be able to re-open on July 4, he is “gearing up operations” for a return of guests and staff for that date.

Mr Graveling, whose hotel has been housing NHS staff isolating from their families, said that he faced a surge in bookings for Autumn and Winter after the prime minister’s speech.

Galton Blackiston, owner of Michelin-star Norfolk hotel Morston Hall and No.1 in Cromer, cooked and served food in the kitchen at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn. Picture: QEHGalton Blackiston, owner of Michelin-star Norfolk hotel Morston Hall and No.1 in Cromer, cooked and served food in the kitchen at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn. Picture: QEH

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“I am positive that next year will be great for the hospitality industry in the UK as people are going to want to get away but probably not abroad.”

Two Cromer businesses which also say their decision to re-open has been applauded by customers are Galton Blackiston’s No. 1 Fish and Chip shop and John and Claire Davies’ Fish Shop.

Mr Blackiston said that No. 1 opened up last weekend with cautious social distancing precautions in place - such as perspex screens between staff and customers, two metre outdoor queue markings and a hefty supply of hand sanitiser.

He said: “I monitored the situation from Friday right through to Sunday evening and I have to say, everyone was fantastic. It was a really fulfilling exercise.

“People really respected the measures in place and we we’re doing 350-500 orders each day.”

Davies Fish Shop is also open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, operating a one-in-one-out policy.

He said: “This is the third week we’ve been open now and local customers are grateful for that. People really seem to be behaving themselves.

“But it’s important that we don’t shun day trippers completely as Cromer would be a far different place without them.”


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