It’s great to see how so many local hospitality businesses have adapted to the new social distancing rules, following the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown measures. Many residents and visitors are also keen to take advantage of the chance to get out and about and enjoy what our towns have to offer. Last Friday I visited The Potting Shed at 34 Rendezvous Street in Folkestone to meet with the owner David Holden. The business opened last year after David moved to the town from London. On the surface, it's an attractive shop selling antiques and gifts, with an old fashioned looking potting shed installed at the back. Yet, in the evening, if you know the password which changes daily, you are guided into the potting shed and through a secret door at the back which transports you to a stylish speakeasy cocktail bar on the other side. The bar is open from 7.30pm, Thursdays to Saturdays, but you need to book in advance which you can do by email at [email protected]. If you’ve not yet been it’s well worth a visit. You can also find out more at its website thepottingshed.shop.
Whilst it’s good to see people sitting outside bars and cafes, business has been a lot tougher post lockdown for our local hoteliers. Last Friday I also met with the owner of The Clifton in Folkestone, Kanagaratnam Rajamenon, known to his friends and colleagues as Menon, and Neil Lomas the hotel’s general manager. As a consequence of COVID-19 we are seeing far fewer tourists visiting from northern Europe than we would normally expect for this time of year, and also many business bookings and meetings have largely stopped for now. It was so important for the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to cut VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector to 5% to support businesses like these. I am also working with Folkestone and Hythe District Council to see what more can be done to promote local businesses in this sector, particularly as we get into the autumn months when bookings are usually lower still.
In August we can all support local businesses using the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. At each participating establishment you get a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in, up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 and 31 August, and as many times as you like. You do not need a voucher to use this scheme and you can use it at the same time as other offers and discounts. There is no minimum spend, and all diners in a group of any size can use the discount. The discount will be automatically available to use at participating establishments, and the businesses themselves will then claim a reimbursement from the government for the discount they’ve given you. You can search for the many local participating businesses in the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ page on the gov.uk website, but they include, for example, Luben and Rocksalt in Folkestone, the Five Bells at Brabourne, the Hythe Bay restaurant, and The Ship Inn at Dymchurch.