Ramsgate restaurant owner says government advice to avoid venues will destroy Thanet businesses

Owner James and executive chef Craig at the Little Ships

The Little Ships and Empire Room  in Ramsgate say yesterday’s announcement by the government that people should avoid restaurants, pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues will mean businesses shutting down and jobs lost along the supply chain.

James Thomas, who owns both venues, issued a statement today (March 17) to say both sites would remain open with customers making the choice whether to use the service or not.

He said: “HM Government told us to avoid all non-essential contact with special mention for restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. This presents our restaurant business with a dichotomy.

“If everyone decides to follow this advice to the letter then our restaurants will have to close because no-one will eat at our tables. Jobs will be lost. Not just the people who work for us but all the supplier jobs down the line.

“We buy our food and drink from local suppliers and our team is made up of local people. They have mortgages and rents to pay and families to support. They are your neighbours, your friends, the parents waiting with you at the school gates or the people in the queue at the supermarket. These people are part of our local Thanet family and during times such as these we have a responsibility to look after them.

“So, what do we do? Do we close immediately, lay everyone off and go bust with all the misery that this entails or do we remain open and go against the advice of the government? It is a balance of duties.

“And so we have decided to leave the ultimate decision to you, our customers,

“For the time being our doors will remain open, we will honour those bookings we have, we will ask our staff to come in to work if they wish.”

Mr Thomas says measures are being put in place alongside rigorous cleaning such as reducing seating with wider spaces between tables, minimal air conditioning but open doors and windows where possible and takeaway availability on menus.

His words are being echoed by hospitality businesses across the isle who are questioning where the government support is and how they will survive when the lack of enforced closure means no compensation will be available.

Michael McColl of The Laughing Barrel

A similar decision has been made by The Laughing Barrel micropub in Palm Bay who have told customers: “We are open! If you do not need to self isolate, please support us and pop in for a drink #supportlocal

“If you feel unwell, please don’t come in. We want you all to stay safe and well. Need something to drink at home? Why not come and collect a takeout or send someone round to collect it for you.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our lovely customers for your continued support at this hard time.”

The duo added: “It’s absolutely awful for self employed people. Unless the government force us to close, we can not claim any funding from the government and the insurance will not pay out either.

“We are open and also doing our take out service where people can come in and take it home or they can send someone in to collect it for them. Without help from the government we can not see that anyone will have a business left.”

The Ambrette

Dev Biswal

Dev Biswal, the chef-owner of the Ambrette restaurants in Margate and Canterbury, has introduced takeaway menus for the first time in its 10-year history.

The Ambrette restaurants have also announced a number of special promotional offers in response to the Government recommendation the public avoid visiting restaurants.

Biswal has also postponed his planned launch of Ambrette Tours to take small parties on gastro trips to Indian from the end of the year.

Ambrette is partnering with Deliveroo for customers to have Indian meals delivered to their homes.

“The Ambrette has never offered takeaways, because my style of cooking and presentation could never survive transportation, so I’ve developed new dishes that travel,” said Biswal, “Having read the industry reports which all predict significant growth  the delivery market, it’s something I’d been given serious thought to for some time.

“The crash in footfall surrounding the media panic around Corvid-19, means I’ve just brought those plans forward.”

The Ambrette has also announced a number of promotions to enable the two restaurants to remain open, for staff to keep working and support suppliers.

It’s £50 and £20 restaurant gift vouchers will now remain valid for 24 months and have been reduced in price by 50%.

Biswal is critical of what he sees as an unnecessary media panic and the Government’s policy of recommending the public avoid restaurants, whilst not actually instructing them to close – which would trigger business disruption clauses on company insurance policies.

“The Government seem willing to force thousands of small business into bankruptcy to protect the interests of wealthy ‘Names’ [underwriters] at Lloyd’s of London.”

“As someone with elderly parents and young children I am deeply concerned about those at risk from the Corona virus – but the media panic and governments responses worldwide seem to be an over-reaction.

Biswal believes the economic consequences may cause more casualties than the disease.

“Each death is a tragedy, but according to Public Health England, seasonal ‘flu can kill more than 20,000 people each winter in the UK – is this any worse?”


Baby Sensory Thanet

The Baby Sensory sessions, based in Ramsgate, have been suspended.

Business boss Fiona Crawford said: “When I started by business 11 years ago we were faced with a massive recession. I have had businesses in recession and had experience of getting through them.

“We then had austerity forced on us and as a result many of us have just about got by and will have pretty much gone through our savings to get by. That puts us in quite a precarious position. We can go for a couple of months without income, but after that, we get into difficulties.

“ I am in conversation with our insurance company about the loss of earnings clause, but obviously, they are doing their best to evade payment. The mortgage company is offering a payment holiday, that will help, but will tack on more debt. I am hoping that my landlords will be kind and let me pay them when we’re back on our feet.

“With regards to the nursery, I have to hope that the local authority will still pay the nursery fees, based on last term’s details. Other than that, what can we do? Warn our staff about our current financial situation so that they can made an educated decision on what they need to do.

“We may have to shave off hours so that we can retain jobs. We have a wonderful team, and the thought of putting them in that situation really hurts. I hope that there will be some measures to support businesses so that they can pay their staff. The knock on effect of businesses that have to close and people losing their jobs is immense in a small community likes ours.”

Palace Cinema Broadstairs

The independent Palace Cinema in Broadstairs has closed its doors until further notice.

Bay Tree Hotel and restaurant Broadstairs

The Bay Tree will continue to trade and is also offering help for those who need it in the community. A statement says: “During this challenging time The Bay Tree is still open and welcoming guests as normal for both overnight stays and for food and drink. We have additional cleaning procedures in place and sanitising gel and wipes at our entrances. We can arrange for take outs of our food and for delivery within Thanet and we are also very happy to offer whatever assistance we can to our older and more vulnerable neighbours (such as assisting with shopping or just saying hello and listening). Please take care, everyone – Robert, Alistair, Ben and Ptolemy.”

Great British Pizza Margate

GB Pizza

GB Pizza owner Lisa Richards has issued a statement to say the venue will remain open until ordered otherwise by the government.

She said: “We are working on a new delivery service for those who are self-isolating, and we are looking at all aspects of “advice” the government is giving.

“Our team remains passionate and strong and committed to serving Margate our pizza, but we’re all scared. Really scared. I feel for those working in my industry with underlying mental health issues –  you must be struggling.

“The hospitality industry, despite employing a lot of people and injecting a ton of cash into our economy, can be a shaky place to do business. Margins are tiny, costs are ever-increasing, and like other restaurant owners, we feel an overwhelming responsibility to our staff, our customers and our suppliers – many of whom are also small, local, indie businesses. Business owners like me – who probably have a loan guaranteed on their home – always pay themselves last of all; we’re now wondering how to pay the rent, our bills, our mortgage, our petrol.

“I had a sleepless night last night, feeling physically sick with worry. I’ve built this amazing, wonderful business from the ground up with the support of all of the wonderful staff who have passed through our doors, as well as our amazing, loyal customers. Every day brings a new lesson – but in my 12 years of working in this industry, I have never felt so overwhelmed, worried and alone.

“We will continue to make pizza, until ordered otherwise by the government. We have invested time and money into staff training, new equipment and new products to ensure the restaurant goes above and beyond in terms of cleaning advisories. To all my fellow business owners in the hospitality and leisure industries: let’s support each other, let’s talk, let’s come together. Together we have power, knowledge and strength.”


In Margate the Modernprovider bakery is offering home bake bread kits for those who need to self isolate. Owner Ben Wykes says the kit contains what is needed to make a few loaves and tins can be loaned. A delivery service is also being offered. Find Modernprovider in The Centre Margate or on facebook here

Closure decision

The owners of The Micro Museum in Ramsgate, have decided not to re-open at Easter because of the Coronavirus.

Carol Deer, Co-founder of the Museum said, “My husband Mike and I are very conscious of the risks to the health of our visitors and team members, of being open to the public while the Covid-19 virus is a threat to us and our community.

“We have studied information from official sources and, sadly, have decided not to re-open at Easter, as we planned.  Looking at the Government’s projections of how the virus is expected to spread in the UK, it seems unlikely that we will be open until later this year or, in the worst case scenario, until next year.

“We are sorry to have to disappoint all our prospective visitors – both new and returning friends. We will continue to monitor advice.

“This situation will pass and we will be open again, as soon as it is safe. Meanwhile, we will post updates on social media and our website.”

Spitfire and Hurricane Museum Manston

Trustees have taken the decision to close the mueum.

Chairman Marcus Russell said: ” The Trust has decided to close the Museum to the public until further notice.

“This decision has not been taken lightly but we feel we must do what we can to minimise the risk to our staff, volunteers and visitors many of whom are in the vulnerable groups as advised by the Government.

“Members of the Trust will be undertaking the back office functions to keep the Museum
ticking over.
The Merlin Café will stay open for the foreseeable future. We wish you all the best at this uncertain time.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale

Volunteers needed- Sir Roger Gale’s office is endeavouring to establish a register of voluntary groups that are able to offer assistance to self-isolating and house-bound constituents in North Thanet during the Coronavirus pandemic. Please contact his Parliamentary assistant, Cllr George Kup on [email protected] with your full details and the area you can cover.

Marlowe Theatre (Canterbury)

“Following government advice and alongside other UK theatres, we are cancelling performances until Friday 17 April and will be closing the building from today.

“Customers who have tickets for performances up until this date will receive a letter or email, offering them a refund or credit voucher.

If you have booked for a show after that date, we will let you know in plenty of time if anything changes. If you have tickets booked for a show between now and Friday 17 April, we ask that you do not contact our Box Office team or email us. We will be in touch with you.”

Visit Kent

Visit Kent, which represents the tourism industry in the county, is calling on the government to provide a cash injection to help businesses survive during this time of crisis.

A statement says: “The latest advice from the Government regarding the Coronavirus has significant implications for our industry. As we approach the all-important Easter season we are faced with the prospect of a significant reduction in business for our members, due to the advice on social distancing.

“We understand that the priority must be to protect public health and due to the unprecedented scale of this virus, disruption to our everyday lives is inevitable. We are concerned, however, that many of our businesses will simply be unable to manage the downturn in revenue which this announcement will mean. Many small and medium sized businesses which are the lifeblood of our industry and our economy will struggle to manage cash-flow over this difficult period.

“We are therefore calling on the Government to provide immediate cash injection to enable businesses and their teams to survive following the latest advice. Before this crisis took hold, our destination was in high demand, with an exciting year of events ahead of us. Government support now will ensure that our vibrant and innovative industry can weather the storm and be ready to rebuild when the crisis has passed.

“We at Visit Kent stand ready to do all we can to support our businesses through this difficult time and we urge the Government to do the same.”

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale)

CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: “Pubs are at the heart of many communities and often provide other vital services. The advice from the Government for people to avoid pubs will have a devastating effect on the pub and brewing industry, the many millions of people it employs and the huge contribution it makes to local and national economies.

“The lack of decisive instruction from the Government leaves pubs in a limbo where customers will abandon them, but they’ll be unable to claim insurance or other support to help them survive. The Government has not defined how long people should stay away from pubs, but be in no doubt, within a short time many pubs and breweries will close and never reopen to serve their communities.

“If the Government believes people should not go to pubs, it needs to show leadership by clearly telling pubs to close their doors – and not unfairly leave it up to licensees to make an impossible decision. It needs to makes it clear for how long a period the enforced closure should last, and quickly deliver a package of support to see pubs and breweries through until they can again deliver the host of benefits pubs bring to the communities they serve.

“This should include, but not be limited to: extending business rate relief to all pubs, regardless of rateable value; deferring or forgiving VAT payments; covering staff salaries; allowing pubs to stay open if they provide other vital community services such as post office facilities; and helping pubs recover at the end of the crisis by introducing a differential rate of duty on draught beer served in pubs.

“We’d also call on pub companies to support their tenants by giving them a rent holiday during the crisis and particularly during any forced closure. Other suppliers such as sports TV providers could also demonstrate their support of the pub industry by giving a payment holiday.”

National data

As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive. The latest confirmed number of deaths will be announced later today.

New measures to combat coronavirus announced – people told to avoid all ‘unnecessary’ social contact

Thanet sets up assistance group to help those affected by coronavirus and self-isolation

Daily updates: Impact of coronavirus on Thanet businesses, events, groups and schools

Find advice for small business owners and the self employed here


  1. It is a Conservative dictatorship at all businesses concerned. Its a lot more than that its so they can bring in military order. Those who go out will be fined and punished. Its war… They not said it I did. We are at war… Not with our armies fighting the Germans but GERMS

  2. It’s the right thing to do. It’s not just about your business it’s about people’s lives. I have lost my income also but you just have to suck it up for the greater good. Your not that busy at this time of year anyway.

  3. I am reading the comments by Rebecca hooper. How is the government a dictatorship it doesn’t matter who is in charge would labour do any better or does people’s lives not matter to her.The EU is the biggest dictatorship all countries have shut down.

  4. The government is pulling a fast one. By just advising the customers to stay away from thousands of small businesses, they are not actually taking responsibility for what will happen ie. many of the businesses will go bust and the staff will lose their jobs.
    Now, if the pubs/restaurants etc have got insurance for this, they will NOT be able to claim because the government has not ORDERED closure so it will be all their own fault!!
    So the big insurance companies will get away with it yet again and the small businesses will collapse.
    This is a deliberate decision by the Johnson government.
    Just as they are protecting the big financial institutions that fund them, they are throwing the staff who will find themselves out of work to the wolves.
    Remember, the Tories are keen on “cracking down on the scroungers” etc. If you find yourself out of work suddenly, you will not get Universal Credit for at least 5 weeks. Meanwhile, you will need to rely on foodbanks, though with all the panic-buying and the volunteers maybe avoiding crowded sites, there may be precious little to be had.

    If the government was REALLY planning for us all to “be in the same boat”, they would instruct the DWP to pay Universal Credit immediately to claimants , and sort out any discrepancies later. They would also instruct landlords and Banks to suspend rent and mortgage payments when a customer suddenly loses their job in the hotel or pub or airline etc. But they HAVEN’T done that. We are being left to sink or swim.
    The big financial companies are being protected. The rest of us have to survive on the “Dunkirk Spirit”.

  5. People in “are risk” groups are basically being written off.
    We are told we’re being “shielded” for our own good.
    We’re being put on a position (house arrest for 4 months) so that we’re less likely to catch C19, and thus be a burden to the already grossly overworked NHS.
    What I want to know is why, when this all kicked off in late Jan early Feb, did the government urge ex pats living in China to come home? 100s, possibly 1000s of people, an unknown number if whom were C19 carriers, flocked back to Blighty, with no test, no quarantine, spreading the virus the length and breadth of the country.
    Then a load fled north Italy.
    And now the Foreign Office is working to bring home a load of skiers from France.
    No. Leave them there in quarantine!

  6. This is not political at at all and those trying to make it political are idiots.

    Left wing AND right ring governments across Europe are locking down whole countries. This is a battle against a virus, a deadly virus and is in no way political.

    Unfortunately this virus targets a specific demographic and I do feel sorry for those who are being asked to stay at home but they are being asked to stay at home for their own good. This isn’t a punishment it is a necessity to safeguard lives.

    Unfortunately there are too many idiots taking this virus too lightly and in their mind they are not at risk so they don’t care if they infect others. It’s disgusting how many people are laughing and joking about this when other households are losing loved ones.

    Listening to the idiots laughing, joking and those trying to make this political make realise how selfish and spiteful society has become.

  7. It just goes to show how the human race are sick,selfish and just pig ignorant to whats really happening,this is a global pandemic,a virus that kills people,what the govenament have done is left the desion to the general public,for the time being.When it gets more serious as it will then we will brordered to do these things for our own good.so enjoy all things at the moment because it will not last,nor will the virus.when its all over then we can go on and re-build our livies ,help re build businesses.the old saying,united we stand,united we fall.your decision.

  8. Telling the public not to visit pubs and clubs and by inference restaurants, will make a struggling sector still more difficult.
    I hardly think bailing out airlines and railway companies and letting SME’s swing in the breeze is either fair or reasonable.
    Thanet’s economy relies on this sector and if it is heavily damaged so will Thanet be damaged.
    What is needed is leadership and decisive policies. May I suggest the following:
    All debt, personal and corporate be frozen for 3 months. In that time no additional interest to be charged, but debtors will be expected to repay where they can.
    Rent increases to be frozen and all eviction notices or actions to evict also frozen.
    Tax payments to be suspended for 3 months with no interest charged.
    UC to be paid on reciept of a claim with no waiting period.
    Stocks of food held by the Govt to be released to parts of the UK that need to ensure everyone is adequately fed.
    Supermarkets to be put under martial law using emergency powers to ration key food and other key consumables.
    A thorough and quick audit of all resources needed to treat those with the virus and the Hospital trusts to be directed and coordinated by the Ministry and NHS England, to stop silo budgeting and hoarding by trusts.
    Call in the military now and start planning for the worse.
    Profiteering by wholesalers and individuals to be cracked down upon with heavy fines or prison by tribunals set up for the purpose.
    Finally, this govt was elected with a very good working majority just over 3 months ago, now is the time to show its mettle.

  9. Trying to score political points at this time is totally inappropriate behaviour. Every Government in every country of whatever political persuasion has some very difficult decisions to make based on the advice they are given.. they *don’t* operate in isolation so to accuse them of dictatorship is blatant nonsense. It may pan out either way as to whether decisions taken now are the correct ones, but it is like a war situation.. you win some and lose some…

  10. The government aren’t *forcing* anyone to do anything. They’ve given the same advice that the WHO have given.

    In other countries the governments have forcibly closed businesses. Boris has said repeatedly he isn’t going to do this and people need to use their discretion. That’s literally the opposite of a dictatorship.

    I cannot fathom why people don’t seem to understand this.

Comments are closed.