Businesses left reeling by loss of Cup Match
Businesses already hurt by the economic impact of Covid-19 are braced for another hit caused by the cancellation of Cup Match and associated events.
Some of those in the West End, where Somerset Cricket Club was scheduled to host this year's game on July 30 and 31, had hoped the island's biggest holiday would have given them a boost, after services were limited and staff were laid off as result of pandemic precautions.
Shawnette Simmons-Smith, the owner of the Green Lite Café and Eatery on Cricket Lane, said her business continued to suffer the consequences of Covid-19.
Green Lite, which serves a mix of vegan and non-vegan food, had to end its buffet and dining-in operations and lay off staff.
Ms Simmons-Smith said: “I was looking forward to Cup Match to help. It's definitely going to affect us.
“I was hoping that Covid would have passed and the danger, the mask-wearing and social-distancing would be over to help boost the business.
“We have already taken a hit with kerbside service and then shelter-in-place. When we reopened, it was still kerbside.
“Also, people are not spending as much; they are holding on to the money they have.”
Ms Simmons-Smith said that, in the past, business picked up as soon as Cup Match organisers started to put up scaffolding at Somerset Cricket Club field and continued until the event finished.
She added: “In July, it grows tremendously. Because I am directly across from the field, I get a lot of foot traffic from people coming to look at the field.
“The Cup Match days are also a big time for me. We usually have a couple of sellers standing outside selling clothing and face cloths.
Ms Simmons-Smith said: “I'm here trying my hardest to sustain the business.
“One foreign worker went home before Covid and he wasn't able to return. I had another I had to lay off — a local. I was hoping after Cup Match I could bring her back on, but I can't yet. The two staff that I did keep on, they are on reduced hours. I am doing a lot more labour, I am covering shifts.”
Sandys Boat Club was the traditional venue that attracted thousands of people to a raft-up in Mangrove Bay over the long holiday weekend.
But the event will not be held, either, and a decision will be made whether the raft-up will be allowed has yet to be decided.
Arron Burrows, the club treasurer, said the tradition had died down in recent years, so the loss of the event this year would not have such a big impact.
Mr Burrows added: “Before, Non Mariners was the biggest day of the year for us, but it's been slowly diminishing over the past few years.
“Last year, the club was only open for membership and it was the first year that we didn't do the race.
“We took the break last year, hoping it would get people interested in it again, but now this year has thrown another spanner in the works.”
A government spokeswoman said: “Regarding raft-ups, this continues to be assessed based on the Ministry of Health guidelines.
“Any updates to the guidelines will be shared with the public.”
Mr Burrows added the club operates for members only over Cup Match, but that their guests often joined the club afterwards.
He said: “It's not as if members of the public can come in anyway.
“But during Cup Match, our members may bring in a bunch of friends and they come and patronise the bar and even sign up for membership.
“That might have a bit of an effect on us this year — when new guests might not come to the club.”
Mr Burrows predicted: “In terms of the other businesses, they will see a big hit — you get a lot more people in Somerset for Cup Match, especially those who turn up by boat and walk up to the game.”
Ingo Roch, the owner of Misty's Take Out on Somerset Road, said his business would also suffer.
But he added: “We used to be up by the field so it would have had more of an effect on us then. Our business usually picks up before and after Cup Match.
“It's a different story altogether now — we have less than half the staff. Everything's changed now.
He added: “I had to lay off some staff. Everyone is feeling the pinch.
Mr Roch said: “I don't think there will be any change until they find a vaccine. You just have to put your best foot forward — don't give up.”
Donald Hassell, the owner of Mangrove Bay Road's Somerset Country Squire bar and grill, said that Cup Match did not generate extra business for him.
But he added that the industry had taken a major hit as a result of Covid-19.
Mr Hassell said: “Everybody's up at the game — it doesn't make much difference to me.
“But with no tourists, we've had a big scale back.
“It's been very quiet — most of those who come to the bar are English and Portuguese, but we've not been getting so many.
“It's just two of us working here now.
“There used to be 14. A lot my chefs are overseas — they never made it back.”