Businesses adapting to life after lockdown

Humeera Dar
Humeera Dar runs her sewing business from The Common Room in Leyton

Mike Grimshaw visits some local businesses to find out how they’re faring

Following the front-page report in August’s Echo about the impact of coronavirus on the local economy I decided to visit Syed Monsur, manager of Dhaka Tandoori in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, to follow up on the restaurant’s progress.

In particular, I wanted to know how the chancellor’s popular ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme offering government-subsidised discounts on meals had helped the business. He told me that before the Covid-19 outbreak he had employed seven staff, including some part-timers, but that this had now been reduced to three full-timers, plus help from family members when needed. The remaining staff were still on furlough.

Syed told me that Eat Out to Help Out had indeed helped but, judging by the numbers, the main effect had been to persuade existing customers to go out for their meals earlier in the week – with the scheme only applying on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays – rather than at the weekend.

There has of course been an extra problem for restaurants created by demands for social distancing, which creates further financial loss. During the period of the Eat Out scheme, Dhaka Tandoori could not always accomodate every customer, with some asked to come back later, while on the Thursday that I visited, the first customers did not arrive until after 8pm.

Syed also told me that the days of “going for a an Indian” after a visit to the cinema or pub seem to have gone – there just isn’t any trade after 11pm.

Last year I interviewed some enterprising people operating from community space The Common Room, at Leyton Green. I recently went back to find out how life after lockdown was for one of them, Humeera Dar.

The lockdown had stopped her business completely, she told me. She had been about to stage a public display of her work in Walthamstow High Street during March, but of course the lockdown put paid to that.

Around the same time, she fell ill. Perhaps it was from Covid-19 – that was never ascertained – but during her self-isolation, because her normal trade had dried up, she started making washable face masks. Later on, when it became viable, Humeera took on nannying and did a lot Zoom meetings with the charity Forgotten Women, for which she is a trustee.

Conversely, Humeera also said the lockdown had brought her into contact with more people, including two students who wish to collaborate with her. Just before lockdown, Humeera had been working with a brand, and now hopes this work can recommence. Individual customers are gradually increasing again too and she continues to carry out repairs on clothes.

Finally, I spoke to Torquil Morgan, the business manager at Alfred English & Sons, a long-running funeral directors in St James Street, Walthamstow. He told me about some of the changes they have had to put in place and said: “Services have become smaller and we’ve had to change some of the ways we do things, such as putting perspex screens into our limousines. One innovation that many people have welcomed is the live-streaming of services; allowing loved ones to virtually attend funerals when they can’t physically be there themselves.”

Book an Indian meal at Dhaka Tandoori:
Call 020 8520 5151
Visit dhakatandoorie17.co.uk

Contact Humeera Dar for all your sewing needs:
Call 07399 154 006
Email humeeradar@gmail.com
Instagram @humeera_dar

Book a funeral with Alfred English & Sons:
Call 020 3411 4960