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BAME-owned businesses hit hard, reports parliamentary group

27th Nov 2020
BAME-owned businesses hit hard, reports parliamentary group

Weston-based restaurateur Ershad Ali says the struggle to keep his family’s 40-year-old restaurant afloat during the pandemic has taken its toll on his mental health (Credit: PR The Write Way)

Harun Nasrullah

BAME-owned UK businesses are, disproportionately struck by the pandemic and risk of financial ruin with nearly two-thirds of business owners unable to access government funding, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report has found.
BAME communities are not only at greater risk of dying if they contract the virus — but face greater exposure because of the businesses they tend to run.

Diana Chrouch, special advisor to the parliamentary group for BAME business owners, said, “The impact to the economy would be astronomical if a significant number of BAME-run businesses had to close. It could easily lead to a loss of billions of pounds.”

There are said to be 250,000 firms led by BAME entrepreneurs, contributing around £25 billion a year to the economy. Many provided frontline services during the lockdown, including pharmacies, convenience stores and takeaways and general support in their community.

Yet the report titled, ‘BAME Business Owners Covid-19 Response (Voice from the Grassroots – Consultation Findings)’ found many felt overlooked and unable to access state-backed loans and grants in the early days of the pandemic.

Chrouch, who is also the chair of BAME policy for the Federation of Small Businesses, said, “This report shows it has been particularly hard on ethnic minority businesses as a whole. It would greatly benefit the UK economy if such enterprises were given the resources and support needed to survive the pandemic and scale-up.”
UK Curry Connect (UKCC), an NGO set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry, collated information from members as part of a national public consultation.

Moslek Uddin, CEO of UKCC said the pandemic “could be the nail in the coffin” for his industry. He added, “Lives and livelihoods are at risk, and we want our voices to be heard. We need greater representation in government.”
The report also found BAME entrepreneurs less likely to have access to bank financing, venture capital or Angel Investment.

A history of mistrust and a lack of support was also reported from some BAME-led enterprises. Some BAME owners have resorted to dipping into savings and taking out payday loans. There are calls to make funding more accessible and provide tailored business support for BAME business owners.

There are calls for greater representation and engagement by policymakers with BAME business owners to understand the issues they face and find better solutions.
Chrouch said, “We need representation at the highest level of government, along with better access to funding and business support. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.”

The experience of Weston-based restaurateur Ershad Ali is featured in the report.
Ali said the 10 pm curfew and social distancing has badly hit his family’s 40-year-old restaurant The Curry Garden leading to a 40 per cent loss in turnover.

Ali said, “The 10 pm closure is leading to a loss of custom for us, especially as Indian food tends to be eaten as a late meal, and I can see no scientific explanation for implementing it. We have halved our seating capacity due to social distancing. We can’t have tables of more than six people. It’s hard to plan for future events, such as Christmas parties.”

Adding, “We have a lot of cleaning, compliance and precautions to put in place and the extra workload — for reduced income — is incredibly stressful.”

He said there has been mass booking cancellations in recent months, and he lost thousands of pounds worth of stock with the announcement of the lockdown.

Ali had received a small business grant, furloughed staff and had to let some employees go but has had to dip into his savings to cover costs such as rent. The dad-of-two said, “I’m worried that I can’t guarantee jobs for our staff, who have been with us for around ten years and are very good at their work.

I’m also worried about providing for my family, and we’ve already had to make cuts at home. I’m trying to stay positive; for the sake of my family, staff and business, but when I’m alone, I want to crumple. I’m often awake until the early hours of the morning. My eating patterns are all over the place. There have been moments when I have wanted to pack it in.”

He is calling for industries to work together and for the government to offer continued support should further lockdowns be announced.

 

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