Representatives of three local organisations share their views on the effects of Covid-19 on the area.
Wimbledon Village Business Association
There has never been anything like it.
No one could have foreseen the effect of this devastating pandemic on businesses in the Village. As I write, we already know that Carluccio’s and Cath Kidston are two high-profile retail casualties and it seems possible that they may be followed by Le Pain Quotidien. We are suffering the greatest retail downturn since records began.
With the prospect of social distancing continuing until 2021 and with customer capacity reduced by up to 50% when they do eventually reopen, many smaller restaurants will find it impossible to survive.
Our Village High Street will come through this, but inevitably it will be very much changed. As an Association we have been actively lobbying Merton Council, the Government and landlords to be as realistic as possible, with help for businesses that, in some cases, don’t meet the criteria for loans, rent breaks or suspension clauses in leases, as the situation is so dire.
The worst disaster for our Association has been the cancellation of the AELTC tennis championships, which we help promote with the Village flag sponsorship scheme. The money generated by the event is used throughout the year to raise awareness of what the Village has to offer, from online and print promotion to numerous events culminating in purchasing all the Christmas lights that people find so attractive.
On a positive note, many businesses are still open including bakers, chemists, delicatessens, supermarkets and off-licences; also a number of restaurants are operating on a take-away basis. Details of suppliers are shown in the welcome Residents’ Association newsletter circulated by Clive Hilton.
This is the new reality. All we ask is that when something vaguely resembling normality returns we all remember that the Village relies so much on local footfall and the custom of local residents. Never have the words “Use it or lose it” been more appropriate.
Please stay safe and we look forward welcoming you back soon to our wonderful Wimbledon Village.
All England Club
Together with our charitable arm, the Wimbledon Foundation, we have stepped up efforts to help in the current situation. We are working with the NHS, donating medical supplies and offering facilities for use, we have distributed food to vulnerable Londoners through City Harvest and liaised with local Councils to support their needs. Local community donations have included to St George’s Hospital (including accommodation for staff and families); we have match-funded amounts raised by the local business community; we have worked with Age UK, several local homeless charities and the London Communities Coronavirus Appeal.
On the home front, we are closely following all the Government’s advice on construction projects, and within these parameters work is gradually resuming on our sites in Church Road and at the Community Sports Ground, Raynes Park.
Over the Players’ entrance to Centre Court is the famous board, donated by Lord Curzon in 1923, bearing the quote from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”:
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same”
Not since World War Two, when the Championships were last cancelled, has the quote seemed more apt. In this spirit, we are happy to tell you that the 134th Championships will be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021. Anyone who paid for tickets in this year’s Ballot will be refunded and offered the chance to buy tickets for the same day and court next year.
Wimbledon and Putney Commons
The epidemic of Covid-19 has reinforced for us all what a lifeline the Commons is for those seeking recreation and exercise, as glorious spring weather brought persistently high visitor numbers to all areas. The new term of ‘social distancing’ introduced many challenges for an outdoor environment, not only for our regular visitors, but also for our staff working to provide the essential service of protecting and preserving our unique resource. We have followed government guidance and scientific evidence regarding practices and restrictions affecting open spaces and have taken every decision on the basis of supporting the national effort against the pernicious virus that has disrupted all our lives.
Although most people are extremely supportive of the restrictions, for some there is a mistaken understanding that the Commons’ normal regulations and byelaws have been suspended. With the updated guidance coming into force on the 13 May 2020, we are taking a cautious approach, with a phased reintroduction of golf on Wimbledon Common and other measures aimed at maintaining social distancing.
Our approach to enforcement is one of education rather than the imposition of penalties. Our objective is to continue to support government measures to restrict transmission of Covid-19. The sooner transmission is under control, the sooner the easing of restrictions can begin. During these difficult times, we simply ask that everyone supports the measures.