New business left in lockdown limbo

January 25 2021

Mitch Hoare inside new Downend cafe, bar and lounge Mokka

Mitch Hoare inside new Downend cafe, bar and lounge Mokka

A NEW business has been left high and dry by lockdown rules which mean it cannot open – or claim any financial support or relief.
Mitch Hoare and dad Mike's plans to set up cafe, bar and lounge Mokka at a former Downend bike shop started before the first lockdown last year.
They invested £100,000 and spent months over the summer transforming the building next to the roundabout at the top of the high street into a venue where people could meet, eat and drink.
They fitted out the interior, set up Covid security measures, put insurance and licences in place and took on 16 staff, including two chefs from a five-star hotel.
But just as they were about to open to the public at the start of November, the second lockdown was introduced – and since then, the tier system and third lockdown have kept the venue shut.
And because Mokka has been unable to trade, they are ineligible to claim any support grants, furlough payments or business rate reductions offered to other businesses by the government.
The family also runs the Grapevine in Mangotsfield and Foresters in Downend, where Mitch's brother Vinny is the landlord. Sisters Jade and Baily were also set to join the team running Mokka.
Mitch says that all they are asking is for Mokka to be treated the same as businesses that were already trading.
The business was due to open to the public on November 6 and had held test openings with family members on October 30 and 31 – the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the second lockdown, starting on November 5.
Mitch said: "Because the business hadn't traded for a single day, we're ineligible for any of the benefits.
"Everything was ready to go – the chefs were in, the menus were done, the licence and fire regulations done and we had tested the food with the family. We had the whole team of 16 in place and the rota was done.
"We've set up the till systems and internet – the business has multiple bills set up and those companies don't want them to stop.
"We stocked up the spirits and the fridges – it's just dead money sitting on the shelves.
"We were trying to open but because of the lockdown we couldn't. I just don't understand how every other company can be getting the reliefs and benefits when we are in the same position as them."
The Voice has contacted the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask why the rules bar businesses like Mokka from any support.