"The soul (of the area) has gone, the heart is broken."
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on business owners on Manchester’s Curry Mile.
Prior to the pandemic, the area would be filled with people from across the UK, travelling to visit the restaurants and shops on Wilmslow Road.
However, business owners fear that social distancing restrictions, the 10 pm curfew and a cash-strapped customer base who fear going out, all mean the area has lost its buzz.
Tasal Gulmohammad, director of Ariana restaurant, said it will be difficult to continue trading in the current climate.
On average, the restaurant is taking in approximately 20 or 30% of the money they would have made before the pandemic.
He said: “The (Curry Mile) was a busy place – it was the busiest in the whole of Manchester. I have never seen Wilmslow Road like this in my life.
“Before, a restaurant would have its own customers – a lot of people would come from different parts of the country.
“Now the restaurants depend on the locals. It now looks like a normal high street. The soul (of the area) has gone, the heart is broken.
“It’s a time when we need everybody on our side to support each other.
“Eat Out to Help Out did help but it was only three days a week, then four days it would be quiet.
“I worry about the rent, especially in this area. Rents are quite high. If it carries on like this we could survive for a month or two. It has been going on for so long, nobody could carry on (like this) for years and years.”
Qasim Siddique, managed of MyLahore, echoed the concerns.
He said: “Normally it’s really busy here, people are scared. Students are quarantining. People are working from home, they aren’t coming in for a quick lunch. We have lost about 30% of covers and sales. It won’t kill the industry but it will set it back.”
Like other traders, he feared the business would be told to close prior to the three-tier restriction announcement. They can stay open but Qasim is concerned about the reduction in money from 80% to 67% through the furlough scheme.
He also spoke about the future:
“Christmas is our busiest time. If they are only allowed parties of six, people won’t do it.”
Jafra restaurant manager Mahmoud Aljeraisi was relieved when he heard that restaurants would be allowed to stay open.
“We expected a lockdown in Manchester, but it’s better we aren’t shut. Most of the shops are worried – especially shisha bars and takeaways.
“They are used to staying open until two or 3 am.”
Geeta Modha, of Alankar House of Sarees, revealed that there is “zero footfall” following wedding restrictions and the cancellation of events.
She told Manchester Evening News: “If the footfall is there, we know they will buy something.
“Every week the government is releasing new guidelines. Manchester is a high alert area so we can’t get together. We can only have weddings with 15 people.
“People don’t have much money, there are no occasions and they don’t need it – business is really struggling. I feel like crying.”