01:42PM, Friday 22 April 2022
The owners of Maidenhead’s Strawberry Grove café say they still have a lot of love for the town but cannot afford to keep running their Bridge Street eatery.
The popular brunch venue has been battling to stay open amidst falling footfall in the town centre and rising running costs.
But director Stuart Downs said the Government’s decision to restore VAT for hospitality businesses to 20 per cent from April 1 following a 7.5 per cent cut during the coronavirus pandemic proved to be the ‘final nail in the coffin’.
Mr Downs said: “The Government reduced VAT during the pandemic and put it back up by 7.5 per cent on April 1.
“7.5 per cent is probably what a restaurant may make on their overall margin.
“The Government taking that away has been quite a big blow and it’s quite short-sighted actually because a lot of people will have taken loans and gone out of business and they won’t get paid back.”
Stuart, who has been running the eatery with his wife Marta since 2018, said the venue’s location in Bridge Street has made attracting passing customers difficult on weekdays.
The company will continue to run its Marlow and Lane End branches as well as its online service.
“We’re fortunate enough that we’ve grown our business and we’ve got somewhere in Marlow and Lane End which we can fall back on so it isn’t the end for us,” Stuart said.
“People in Maidenhead can still get a piece of Strawberry Grove in that manner but we just couldn’t afford to service the losses we were making on the Bridge Street unit.”
He added: “We still have a lot of love for Maidenhead and when we were in the depths of lockdown and running a grocery delivery business the amount of support we had was fantastic.
“We’d certainly like to come back and maybe when the regeneration is finished and the town centre has been completed we might have an eye on one of the units there.
“At the moment we can’t afford to wait that long.”
A spokesman for the Treasury said: “We’ve stood behind the hospitality sector throughout the pandemic with £400 billion package of economy-wide support that saved millions of jobs.
“And at last month’s Spring Statement we went further, announcing a £1,000 increase to the Employment Allowance which will cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of businesses.
"Eligible high street businesses can also get 50 per cent off business rates bills, and benefit from a freeze to the business rates multiplier that puts the brakes on bill increases and is worth £4.6 billion over the next five years.
“We’ve always been clear that the lower rate of VAT was a temporary measure and it’s right our support reflects the fact the economy has reopened.”
Maidenhead and Slough travellers have long been waiting for the arrival of Crossrail to whisk them quickly into central London.
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