By Tara O’Connor – Local Democracy Reporter
There are “serious concerns” for the future of pubs and restaurants in Croydon as they face huge increases in energy bills shortly after recovering from the Covid pandemic. There have been calls for the Government to step in and provide extra funding to stop businesses closing for good.
Roy Seda from Dice Bar in the town centre said that his energy bills have doubled and that the bar is already paying thousands more each month. While he didn’t envisage having to close the venue, he said things were getting more difficult.
Mr Seda said: “It is really hard at the moment, the business has to open, we have to keep going. We can’t really push all the costs over to the customers which some businesses do, so we are absorbing the costs. It is going to become more and more difficult”.
He said businesses like his are crying out for more financial support from the Government and the council.
Mr Seda said: “I think the council could help business rates to take the pressure off a bit.”
Matthew Sims, CEO of the Croydon Business Improvement District, is worried about the future of bars, restaurants and cafés in the borough. He said: “The general feeling across the entire hospitality sector is one of serious concern about the future. They are trying to recover from the pandemic and are now faced with another crisis of higher energy bills. It is desperate for businesses of all types but particularly hospitality.
“We want the Government to do more, I think businesses echo the need for a reduction of the VAT to support our businesses right here right now. We face a very uncertain future we need those who lead us to make the right choices so we can grow and recover.”
Croydon Mayor Jason Perry said the council’s financial situation made it unlikely they would be able to step in without extra money from the Government.
He said: “It would be the council financing that. While that would be a nice thing to do, [with] the financial disarray I have inherited here it would be difficult to do. We are also being hit by the increased costs as a council.
“I think it would be very difficult with council finances to put a support package in place to support businesses.”
Mayor Perry said he had written to the Government about the pressure on residents’ as the cost of living increases and pledged to raise the plight of businesses too.
He said: “I think the government do need to intervene. I have raised it with the government that the rising costs are a real concern for residents. I will be raising it with the business secretary, it is only right that I raise it for businesses too. We are all feeling the pinch.”