East Northants village pub 'hung out to dry' as bids for Covid grant cash are denied

The pub's opening was delayed by the pandemic but the council says this means they are not eligible for support

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 6:00 am
Richard and Sonya outside The Snooty Fox with Lowick residents.

The owners of a village pub in East Northants say they've been 'hung out to dry' after two bids for financial help to see them through the Covid crisis were rejected.

The Snooty Fox in Lowick was taken over by business partners Richard Gordon and Sonya Harvey in January and was due to open on April 14. They employed staff, started to pay rent and spent thousands on a refurb ahead of its opening, which had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the Government set up a scheme to help struggling businesses, they thought they were eligible for a £25,000 grant due to their rateable value and applied to East Northamptonshire Council (ENC) for financial help.

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The refurb at The Snooty Fox is ongoing. Credit: The Snooty Fox

But on two occasions the council has told them they can't have any cash because they were not open before the lockdown and therefore technically not closed - something pub owner Richard described as red tape.

He told the Northants Telegraph: "The whole point of the Government's grant scheme was to help pay fixed costs.

"I do not see why we have been hung out to dry. I feel like we have done something wrong but I don't know what.

"We are busy investing in our community and looking after them...we have done everything we can to keep going.

The refurb at The Snooty Fox is ongoing. Credit: The Snooty Fox

"I know we have not poured a pint but we employed staff."

The pub first applied for help through the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Scheme before a second bid under the Discretionary Grant Scheme, which was designed to help businesses which fell through the cracks of other schemes.

But despite overheads having a massive financial impact - with rent of £2,250 a month alone - they were turned down both times because the Main Street pub was not trading by March 11.

Richard praised landlords Warkton Roofing for being "fantastic" in supporting them through the crisis but said he had been "treated like a pest" in fighting ENC's decision.

Pub owners Richard and Sonya.

And it will be between six and eight weeks before The Snooty Fox is able to open its doors, despite pubs being allowed to finally open on July 4. Because other firms were closed during the lockdown, they were unable to complete the building work.

Richard, who also co-owns The Red Lion in nearby Cranford, added: "During lockdown we have supplied the village with shopping, we have looked after the old people and we are creating jobs.

"All of the other pubs have had help but we have not had a penny.

"It's just unfair and all because of a piece of literature that says you have to be buying and selling, and we have been doing lots of buying.

"We have got rent to pay but we have had no help [from the council] whatsoever."

A spokesman for ENC said: "Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, ENC has done all we can to help businesses across the district by providing business advice and support, as well as distributing Government grants to those in need of financial support.

"We fully understand the disappointment of the owners of The Snooty Fox in Lowick at not being eligible for a grant.

"However, with both the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Scheme and Discretionary Grant Scheme there were strict guidelines and criteria, set by central Government, which we have had to abide by when awarding grants.

"One of the criteria was that a business had to be trading on March 11, which unfortunately The Snooty Fox was not, so we are unable to offer a grant in this particular case."

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