Paul Bolton is the owner of West Tower in Aughton near Ormskirk – a multi-award-winning company that he said has not had anywhere near the government help it needs since the coronavirus began.
A popular wedding venue has complained to the government about lack of support for the “forgotten industry” – and said it must now lay off half its staff after millions of pounds worth of events were postponed due to the pandemic.
West Tower has lost millions due to the nationwide ban on events – and said the “forgotten” sector “has been dismissed as a backyard business”.
he said: “We are a very strong company and we are not going anywhere. We can go with it, even if it will cost me a lot of money.
Paul, who has owned the venue for a decade with wife Laura, said that while the future of their business is secure, many others will have to close soon.
Currently, weddings are limited to only 15 guests, and with strict rules in place until next spring and no major events allowed since March, this could mean that the industry will be “effectively closed” for an entire year.
“These are hard working people who have a damn good business, but there is no support. You can’t just close an entire industry without compensation.
“The industry is broken. Many, many companies will not be able to survive – it is impossible, and many will close their doors forever.
Last month, in his winter economic plan, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a new employment promotion program that supports the wages of people in “viable” occupations – those who could work a small portion of their working hours even during the pandemic.
Since about 20 employees were on vacation, but this program expires this month, Paul now has to fire them – about half of his workforce.
Paul said he was angry that workers in a sector worth £14.7 billion – and his own business with a backlog of over £4 million – could ever be called “unprofitable”.
He said: “It is an absolute insult and absurd to say that these jobs could be unprofitable. We have well trained, highly skilled chefs, accountants and more. These are not just kids coming out of school, this is a real, very profitable business. And we still sell weddings – about 80% of what we normally do, despite Covid.
“And it’s not just us – it’s also the supply chain that goes with the industry. It’s photographers, make-up artists, cake bakers and more – all these freelancers get nothing. They have been completely abandoned.”
“Our customers are inconsolable every time a wedding has to be postponed. Our customers sob on the phone in front of our sales team.
“They try to organize families from different parts of the world. It’s the biggest day of their lives, but it’s being torn to pieces – so it’s an emotional rollercoaster ride for them.
West Tower, which has won a number of awards for nine years in a row, including nine consecutive years by County Brides magazine as the best venue in Lancashire, has managed to move 150 bookings out of 185 so far. However, many of them have had to change dates two or even three times due to constantly changing restrictions – something which in itself causes “a lot of heartache and anxiety” among customers.