A NEW study has estimated that 40 per cent of Cheshire’s restaurants, pubs and bars may not re-open once the coronavirus pandemic passes.

This stark warning has been issued by Taste Cheshire, the company that represents the food and drink industry across Cheshire, after surveying 100 of its members.

A staggering 40 per cent of members said that they would be unable to open without government assistance if the lockdown was lifted on the June 20.

Just over half said they may be able to open, but were uncertain what would happen after that time, and only a mere 2.5 per cent were confident of re-opening at all.

Stephen Wundke, CEO of Taste Cheshire CEO, has been involved in the industry for over 30 years and believes this is the toughest time it has ever faced.

He said: “Reading through both the figures and comments from our survey was incredibly sad.

“Cheshire has about 1,500 establishments that employ 25,000 people, representing a huge part of Cheshire’s success as a destination and this sector has been hit, disproportionately, incredibly hard.”

Following government intervention, 82.5 percent of members surveyed said they were able to furlough staff, 12.5 per cent are still paying full wages and only 7.5 per cent have needed to make people redundant at this stage.

Sadly, less than half had managed to get one of the government grants and not one of the businesses that had applied for a government backed loan had been successful.

Mr Wundke said that he is most concerned about what happens when the lockdown is lifted, with 64.5 per cent of members surveyed stating that they would have less than 50 per cent of their normal stock remaining.

He added: “This is a huge issue. When we re-open, everyone will be trying to get stock from suppliers and producers at the same time and many people are already at the limit of what they can pay for.

“Suppliers will be understandably reluctant to offer more credit when they too have seen no income.

“Most staff will also want to return to work, but cash starved businesses must find a way to pay wages after furlough finishes.

“We are at a precipice for the industry, which, without further and direct help, could crumble.”

With all this in mind, Taste Cheshire has presented a proposal through Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and Marketing Cheshire to get the Industry back on its feet.

This includes a restocking and re-staffing grant based on turnover, which would see a typical business turning over £400,000 a year getting an average grant of about £12,000.

Most businesses surveyed believe they could get things going again with this sort of sum as a grant.

Across Cheshire and Warrington, Taste Cheshire estimates this would cost central government about £18 million, and if adopted across the whole of England, in the region of £2 billion.

Re-opening plans with social distancing in mind have also been recommended, including table service only and all tables being two metres apart.