'It is really, really challenging': Boda Bars boss criticises 'horrendous' impact of lockdown restrictions

The co-owner of high-profile Edinburgh hospitality chain Boda Bars has criticised the “horrendous” impact of ever-changing lockdown restrictions on the business – forcing it to lay off many staff and seeing turnover almost completely dry up.

The businesswoman feels the hospitality industry has had to constantly bend over backwards, with little notice (file image). Picture: Bo Saunders.
The businesswoman feels the hospitality industry has had to constantly bend over backwards, with little notice (file image). Picture: Bo Saunders.

Anna Lagerqvist Christopherson, along with husband Mike, owns and runs the Swedish bar and restaurant group.

It once had more than 100 staff, but has had to offload many, with its venues reducing from eight to now comprising only Hemma, Akva, Sofi’s Southside, Victoria and Joseph Pearce’s. Only the latter is currently operational, serving takeaways of food and soft drinks.

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As for the impact of the various lockdowns, she said it has been awful – and feels the hospitality industry has had to constantly bend over backwards, with little notice, every time a new rule comes out – changing, say opening hours, and what can be served where.

“It is really, really challenging,” she said, particularly with little visibility of what lies ahead.

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Boda Bars was turning over £5 million before the outbreak of Covid-19 – and this is now down to just a trickle as it has changed its business model yet again to offering deliveries, including Swedish meatballs and poutine.

It comes after Scottish Hospitality Group recently said that its members have taken on high levels of debt since lockdown to stay afloat.

Additionally, the group claims that relevant businesses have experienced an average loss of £12,000 per week, per premises, while it has been claimed that many Scottish hospitality firms are unlikely to break even until 2022.

Separately, restructuring expert Blair Nimmo has warned that many Scottish businesses will face a “massive challenge” weaning themselves off Covid-19 support schemes when they start to wind down.

Precious little

Mr Nimmo said: “Those businesses that remain in hibernation due to ongoing lockdown measures, such as those in the leisure and hospitality and travel and tourism sectors, continue to accrue liabilities while seeing precious little cash flow into the business."

As for what measures Ms Lagerqvist Christopherson would like to see to help her sector, she cites addressing such fixed costs, for example intervening with landlords to, say, defer rent, and tackling the payment of utilities such as water.

She said she believed venues such as hers had an important role to play socially for both customers and staff, with even a brief chat able to have a very positive effect on people’s wellbeing – particularly those that live alone. “I think people are really suffering from not having that,” she said.

The Boda group was founded in 2004 and is named after her Swedish home town. Ms Lagerqvist Christopherson said last year that it was “truly becoming a treasured part of the Edinburgh bar scene”.

The group says its bars are meant to feel like a home from home – “somewhere you can relax, spend time with friends, enjoy good food and drinks and always feel welcome”.

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