the small business royal funeral dilemma

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Clobbered by energy bills, a likely recession and the pandemic in the past few years, the last thing small business owners need was to close another day.

And then the Queen died.

And so began the dilemma between staying open and trying to survive in a difficult business environment and honouring a much respected monarch.

“Although we will be shut on Monday and respecting the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, it is a real inconvenience for small businesses like ourselves, with the financial impact from the closure a bitter pill to swallow,” said Andy Walker, managing director of Walker engineering, a Lancashire based firm which has 35 memebers of staff and a turnover of £2.5m last financial year. “The customer service and production implications this day off will cause is tough.”

Sean Keyes, managing director of Liverpool based civil engineering firm Sutcliffe, faced similar dilemmas. “We’re closing out of respect for the Queen and the good she has done over the last 70 years, which we have massive respect for.

“The downside of course is the fact that we, like other businesses, will be losing tens of thousands of pounds by keeping our doors shut, especially as many businesses may simply feel too much pressure not to stay open.

Sally Butcher, a co-owner of vegetarian restaurant Persepolis in Peckham, south London, decided to remain open as a mark of respect.

Staff at the restaurant will be paid a full day’s wages despite not working the first few hours of the day. However, it wasn’t an easy decision as to whether to stay open or not.

“I am a thorough royalist and cried when the Queen died,” Ms Butcher, 59, said.
“My idea of commemorating someone is ensuring they are remembered so people who come to the restaurant can have an amazing meal and say ‘God save the King’.”

Ms Butcher spoke to several other restaurants in the Peckham area but many will be shut on Monday.

“We open every bank holiday, it’s something we always do and we are usually very busy on those days. Despite some restaurants shutting, I think a lot of the local economy will stay open despite chains closing.

For some businesses in Northern Ireland, staying open might have greater consequences. Businesses in a mainly nationalist Co Derry town, were warned a “campaign”, a reference to a boycott, could be set up unless they closed for the funeral.

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Some retailers in Dungiven were contacted by a prominent individual in the community who suggested there could be commerical consequences if they remained open.

While the Government has declared it a bank holiday, some businesses in the nationalist and republican community are not expected to follow the royal funeral closely.

Two Dungiven businesses spoken to by i said they were surprised by the request as there were strong cross community relationships in the town. One said he hadn’t thought about shutting but that the conversation made him even more determined not to.

A second said he was undecided but stressed it had nothing to do with the threat.

For one home counties furniture retailer with a number of outlets, the problem posed problems he had not come across in business ever before. Remaining open is crucial to surviving tough times ahead. In the case of two of his outlets, both based in shopping centres, the decision became academic when the owners of the centres announced they would close to honour the Queen. He’s undecided about the third.

“There was no consensus when the Queen’s death was announced. Some businesses felt very strongly everyone should close out of respect. It became quite heated. It was difficult to know quite what to do. There could be consquences if we stay open but trading is very difficult at the moment. We asked our staff who gave us different views. I think we will close but it has been one of the more difficult questions I’ve come across.”

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