Businesses across Coventry and Warwickshire are bracing themselves for Boris Johnson’s announcement on his roadmap out of lockdown today.
The Prime Minister is set to pinpoint key dates when different sectors can reopen today at 3:30pm in a House of Commons speech.
And for venues like Fargo Village, which houses a variety of businesses within different sectors, today will be key to their survival plan for the rest of the year.
Fargo Village is the heart of Coventry’s creative and cultural quarter, but after non-essential shops closed when Coventry went into Tier 4 on December 31 2020, it was brought to a standstill.
The only traders able to operate have been food venues offering click and collect services.
CoventryLive spoke to Brian Harrabin, one of the directors of Fargo Village, ahead of today’s announcement.
You can follow our live updates on how the region is reacting to today’s news here.
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Today the PM is expected to unveil a three-stage exit plan from the UK’s third lockdown, and we know for definite that s chools will reopen first.
They will be followed by non-essential shops, then finally pubs, restaurants and cafes, but there are many unanswered questions on what that will look like and when.
“Everyone agrees that the worst thing would be to open and lockdown again. The big thing for me is not necessarily what’s going to come out of today’s announcement but the ongoing support that hopefully would be announced that would take us beyond March, traders are going to need continued support” Brian Harrabin told CoventryLive this morning.
“It’s quite a challenge for Fargo because we have 42 independent businesses that span over different categories of trading from food to brewery top cultural activities to retail, so there’s real mixture, so for Fargo it’s going to be quite a challenge because what we’re going to have is a phased opening.
“I understand absolutely the logistics of the data.”
Just last week CoventryLive reported a print business was expanding in Fargo Village to open up an arts space and coffee shop.
Mr Harrabin said Fargo Village operates at its best when all the traders trade off each other, but with different rules applying to the different businesses based there, they have had to limit public access to the site.
Referring to how they have kept food venues in the village open, he said: “We’ve had to restrict the main gate opening and use subsidiary gates so those that are trading can deal with clients directly.”
And highlighting a recent success story that has been a hit on social media, he said: “Emily’s Brownie Box has done incredibly well and is a real credit to her business and entrepreneurial skill that she’s managed to expand her business. She is a real success story for Fargo, but unfortunately she’s probably in the minority rather than the majority.”
‘Vaccine is beacon of hope’
Today’s announcement could mean different things for some of Fargo’s retailers.
So to allow them to plan for that, what does Mr Harrabin hope will come out of today’s announcement?
“The beacon of hope that we have got is the roll out of the vaccine, that seems to be going well and is accelerating beyond the Government’s initial predictions which is great news, because of the type of space that we use we’ve got the facility to possibly open our outdoor spaces before indoor spaces.
“So I am hoping that might indeed happen in late April but obviously I just don’t think we’re going to get those announcements today as it will be data led. If the trajectory is in the right direction and we can open our outdoor spaces, that opens up for a bigger number of tenants.”
Fargo is set to play a key role in the City of Culture programme, which is due to kick off in May with a jam-packed programme of events. Is he hopeful this will still go ahead?
“We would certainly hope by the time May comes around and City of Culture launches we won’t be too far from being able to resume some form of market and cultural events.”
He added: “There’s then opportunities in May for the village to be alive and kicking.”
Follow live updates ahead of Boris Johnson’s announcement here.
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