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Horsham's small businesses are adapting to the coronavirus lockdown

Covid-19 has sent shockwaves throughout the world and put many of us into a situation we have never encountered.


The ease with which we could shop, visit friends, go out for a meal, or simply go for a drive has all been taken away and for a large number of people missing out on such things has taken them to source new ways to stay occupied. Apps like Houseparty, zoom and skype are being used even more than before as people try and find a way to stay connected, interactive and entertained. Houseparty for example has seen downloads increase from an average of 130,000 per week in February to more than 2 million per week in March.


So what does this mean for our leisure and hospitality industry? With pubs, gyms, restaurants, music venues and more all remaining shut but still needing to find a way to survive how do they tap into a market that can now be created by the people would otherwise be patrons of these venues?


Some of our favourite eateries are offering a take away service which are still classed as an essential service for the time being, fitness groups such as Outdoor Military Fitness are offering live online classes every day of the week. Other venues are hosting virtual pub quizzes and whilst you may not be able to queue at the bar to get your round in, off licenses, also being classed the same as the take away venue mean you can stock up and challenge other pub-goers from the comfort of your home. Piries Bar running their ever-popular quiz on Tuesdays with some great prizes on offer seems to be the most popular so far.


Why, though, you may ask, would a pub be running something that in effect doesn’t generate them any revenue? Well much like The REC Rooms who have been live streaming gigs and comedy nights, they look to provide the local community with something fun and in some cases something they would have been attending had the situation not escalated. An added benefit of such events is that they are fundamentally free, although with these being local businesses you can donate to help keep them running. Both Piries and The Rec rooms have donation pages:


paypal.me/recrooms
paypal.me/Piries1stQuiz


These events are also key from a brand awareness point of view. When everything returns to normal, or at least as normal as it can, these places want to be full, vibrant, enjoyed and loved again. If they can help keep themselves in the mindset of their customers via events, social media interaction and providing a service, the first few weeks of shopping, eating out, leisure and relaxation will see a fantastic boom in the overall atmosphere in the town.

It is also important we look to these business for what else they are-employers- In the earlier stages of the Coronavirus outbreak it was estimated that 1million jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry could be lost as some businesses would simply struggle to carry on. Imbibe, the industry website reported that the government had 24hrs to save 1m jobs.


With the furlough scheme being set up there is some potential relief for employees however whether their business will be able to remain operational after the crisis still remains to be seen. It would be hugely disappointing to see some of Horshams favourite venues struggle and if we can help them, it only benefits us all in the long term as we can revisit the places we enjoy.

By Russell Bedford | April 10, 2020, 7 p.m.