On an October day, its Illuminations lit up the promenade, trying to attract thousands of visitors. But after Lancashire went into Tier 3 restrictions last week, the town looked deserted. That spells disaster for firms employing more than 25,000 staff, the cornerstone of Blackpool’s recent regeneration.
Travel restrictions and woeful weather left the resort bereft of trippers with just a few families braving the windswept front. Shutters on many shops stayed closed, as owners decided it was simply not worth trading.
Those which did open – rock, fudge, souvenir and fast-food outlets – were nearly empty. Bosses said October half-term should be one of their busiest times but restrictions had ruined it. The streets, usually crammed with excited children, were eerily quiet.
Georgia Curry, 23, at the Sticky Chocolate sweet store, said: “Usually at this time of year, there are three of us working in the shop but today there is only me. Customers are usually queuing out of the door and we struggle to get stock out. This week the whole place has been dead. I’ve never seen it like this. Do we stay closed and not make any money or do we open and risk not making enough? It’s a tough choice.”
David Simmons, 36, who works on the horse-drawn carriages, said: “It has affected us really badly.The Government might as well have put us in full lockdown as no one is here. I’ve seen busier days in January. The Government are asking places to stay open but then putting us in Tier 3 without any help. It is ridiculous.”
Martin and Jennifer Boyd have run the Atlantis Hotel for seven years, but disconsolate Jennifer said: “I just wish it would be over. When we went into lockdown, we got a grant of £10,000 from the council but the losses we have incurred are more than three times that.
“We still have to pay for the gas and electricity. We have not had anyone staying in the hotel for over a week-and-a-half.”
Steve McGill, 40, of the I Love Food takeaway, said: “It has killed us. It was busier last week but now we are in Tier 3 people have stopped coming.
“But there is nothing we can do about any of it. We are still open and we are here to serve our customers.”
Tim Baxter, 41, whose family has run Blackpool Rock and Novelties for 30 years, said: “Since lockdown was lifted we can’t complain.
“We have been taking money, nowhere near as much as we would normally, but I do feel lucky because others have not been as fortunate. It’s only going to get worse with Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire going into Tier 3. Those who may have come to the town for a day trip will no longer be travelling.”
Kate Shane, of Merlin Entertainments in Blackpool, said: “We have done everything asked of us. All we ask in return is the Government does right by us and helps all of Blackpool’s tourism businesses get to the other side of this crisis.”
Martin Long, of the town’s Business Leadership Group, warned: “What is happening to Blackpool’s tourism industry could have serious implications for years.”