How a city has prepared itself for reopening

Danny Houghton, Liverpool based partner at MHA Moore and Smalley interviews Bill Addy, Chief Executive Officer at Liverpool BID Company on how Covid-19 has affected the city and how they have helped businesses prepare for reopening post lockdown.

What impact has Covid–19 had on businesses in Liverpool?

The immediate impact of Covid-19 on business was similar to the impact it had on people – shock. Many businesses, across the visitor economy sector, retail and hospitality industry especially, had to close their doors, not knowing when they would open again. Many businesses did not know if they would be viable and if they would survive. Some were able to adapt but the first and primary concern was how to access support, both for their businesses survival and to help their staff and jobs.

There has been a huge amount of uncertainty, coupled with not knowing what would happen around Brexit. Business was bruised by the final quarter of 2019 when there was a real risk of a ‘No Deal Brexit’ and the potential impact that would have on income and investment. It has been a stressful time for business, to say the least.

How have the BID helped the city prepare for business post lockdown?

The work we did within Liverpool BID Company in the immediate lockdown period was to pivot to helping businesses find the help and support they needed. Accessing that support, knowing what grant they were eligible for, understanding how the furlough scheme worked became day to day considerations. Championing businesses’ needs and requests at local, regional and national level was key to adapt, communicate and coordinate the support provided. These have helped businesses survive.

As we moved through lockdown, we began to work on a post-lockdown strategy that was about confidence more than anything else. We had to reassure the safety and security of the BID Area for businesses to open their doors again, and to help them to navigate the new world of social distancing. Across the city centre we knew that businesses wanted to open, they wanted to welcome people back, but they wanted to do so safely.

Working across the city with partners has been vital. Love Your Liverpool, along with Liverpool City Council, Liverpool ONE, Liverpool BID Company, Merseytravel and Royal Albert Dock was the first step, as non-essential shops reopened and it brought people back into the city centre, many for the first time since lockdown.

Through Liverpool Without Walls we have focused on giving specific support to the hospitality industry during this period of social distancing. By helping bars, restaurants and cafes spread out into the streets and pavements, it helps them open safely and increase their business viability. It is also an opportunity to transform the way our city looks and feels, making it greener, more friendly and sustainable.

What lessons have we learnt from this experience?

It has taken real resilience and strength to work through this period. Every person, whether they have been furloughed, out of work, adapting to a new working structure, has been uncertain about their future. The city has worked together incredibly well, sharing experience and expertise to pull together and support everyone in the city. That has been inspiring and it has also enabled the city to be creative. Many things will change post Covid-19 and Liverpool has had to develop innovative solutions to challenges like social distancing and the confidence of people coming back into the city centre. The city has not shied away from the challenge but has approached it with heart.

Liverpool BID Company is a private, not-for-profit organisation, working on behalf of our 1,500 BID Levy Payers in Liverpool across two BIDs (Business Improvement Districts): Retail & Leisure BID and Commercial District BID. For further information please visit their website https://www.liverpoolbidcompany.com/