Newcastle food truck owner says her business won’t survive the second closure of the Quayside Market

A Newcastle food truck owner has said her business won’t survive the second closure of the Quayside Market. Sylvia-Argyro Gkotzi-Heads has run the Gyro Gyro Greek Kitchen for five years, with the busy Sunday market making up most of her income. The popular weekly event was closed for four months during the Covid-19 lockdown, reopening again in August with social distancing measures in place.

But it only lasted seven weeks before new local restrictions were announced in the North East, leading the council to close it again. Council bosses confirmed that the Quayside market will not be going ahead while the new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus are in force.

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While the restrictions did not mandate that events like the market would have to stop, city officials said it was being cancelled as an added precaution. The news came as a “devastating blow” to Sylvia, along with many other small businesses that trade at the market.

The Elswick mum-of-three said: “I’ve been running a successful business for five years now, surviving, bringing up my family. “Suddenly I didn’t work for five months. Many of the market traders fell though the Government’s grant schemes as we did not have permanent commercial premises with a receipt of a rates bill.

“Thankfully we were entitled to get the self employment three month wage which was greatly appreciated and was a massive help. “Then I finally started to work and then they closed the Quayside Market again.

Newcastle Quayside market

“I’m really upset, I don’t know how I’m going to survive Christmas. “I sometimes go to markets in Jesmond and Newburn, but it’s not busy enough to make anything – it’s not worth it to go.

“I just feel I can’t survive this.” Sylvia has written to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah over her concerns, saying, “This has now left most of us fearing the worst – that the market will not go ahead for six months as the Prime Minister announced new restrictions to last for at least six months. “This has left many of the small businesses which reply on the income from the Sunday market very worried about the future of their businesses and livelihoods.

“As the current situation stands the Prime Minister has not announced restrictions on outdoor markets. Currently pubs, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and large scale indoor retail complexes all remain open during the new restrictions while still receiving help from Government towards paying staff wages, VAT cuts, and tax bills deferred.

Newcastle food truck owner says her business won’t survive the second closure of the Quayside MarketNewcastle’s Quayside Market

“As many of us that trade at the Sunday market are family businesses and do not have staff or pay VAT due to our turnover not reaching the threshold, most of the help on offer has not benefited us. “We are deeply disappointed that the council has allowed everything else to remain open in the city with restrictions in place and decide not to allow us to continue to try to save our small businesses and livelihoods.

“Many of us had invested in sneeze guards, sanitiser and signs along with the council making a one way system with barriers separating the one way system. “There was also a rotation system in place so allow more space for social distancing in place where we would trade every two weeks on alternative weeks to give all the business a chance to trade in a safer environment. “This was much safer than some locations currently around the city centre and shopping centres.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “The decision to close the Quayside Market was made to ensure we were fully compliant with the local COVID-19 regulations and guidance introduced on Friday September 18. “It was not something we did lightly as we are well aware of how important the market is to traders, and equally how popular it is among residents and visitors to the city. “But given its open nature it was not deemed possible to ensure COVID-secure protocols could be maintained to ensure social distancing was followed and different households and support bubbles did not mix.

This is much more difficult to manage than in licensed venues and places such as the Grainger Market which have more robust procedures in place and staff to manage them. “We understand a lot of the measures introduced were for guidance, and not written into law, but we have a duty to protect residents and do everything possible to tackle rising infection rates. “We do not want businesses to suffer and part of our request for additional restrictions was a call for greater support for businesses and we continue to press government for further financial assistance.

“Once we are in a position where infection rates are under control we can work with the government to ease local restrictions but until that point we need everybody in our region to do what is being asked, and in the meantime we will continue to lobby for extra support.”

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