How cafe at Bay beauty spot has kept going during pandemic

Staff at the Guardhouse Cafe on Berry Head, Brixham, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic restrictions

Staff at the Guardhouse Cafe on Berry Head, Brixham, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic restrictions - Credit: Alex Foley/Guardhouse Cafe

The team at the cafe in one of Torbay's most dramatic coastal locations is looking forward to welcoming customers back next month in what could be one of the busiest ever years as the country comes out of lockdown.

Alex Foley and his wife Lucy have run the Guardhouse Cafe at Berry Head, a nature reserve at Brixham, for the last seven years after moving from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, in a major lifestyle change.

Alex Foley, owner of the Guardhouse Cafe, Berry Head, Brixham

Alex Foley, owner of the Guardhouse Cafe, Berry Head, Brixham - Credit: Alex Foley/Guardhouse Cafe

When the pandemic arrived a year ago, the business was forced to close due to the lockdown restrictions.

But after the early uncertainty, the financial support and furlough scheme have been enough to keep the business running and the staff to keep their jobs, despite an overall drop in trade of around 40 per cent over the year.

The Guardhouse Cafe at Berry Head, Brixham

The Guardhouse Cafe at Berry Head, Brixham - Credit: Alex Foley/Guardhouse Cafe

Mr Foley said the Government’s business support grants administered by Torbay Council had seen the cafe receive £18,000, which ensured costs were covered during periods of closure and reduced trade.

The cafe reopened last summer with restrictions in place, and has been operating as a takeaway when permitted, but is now expected to be busy as soon as the lockdown is eased on Monday, April 12.

The Government roadmap sets out plans to lift restrictions so campsites and self-catering accommodation can reopen, and customers will be allowed to use outside seating at cafes.

Covid-19 safety restrictions in place in summer 2020 at the Guardhouse Cafe, Berry Head, Brixham

Covid-19 safety restrictions in place last summer at the Guardhouse Cafe, Berry Head, Brixham - Credit: Alex Foley/Guardhouse Cafe

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Mr Foley said thanks to the ongoing financial support, he was able to invest in new picnic tables and other equipment, using local suppliers where possible, and is planning to take on seven extra staff to cope with the expected demand.

He has been able to keep on 23 staff using the furlough scheme, using its flexibility to bring some back to work when needed, and the cafe has been running a takeaway service during the current lockdown.

Mr Foley said: “We feel very lucky because we have been able to look after our staff, and our business has survived.

“That has been a combination of the support that the council has helped with, and the national support through the furlough scheme, VAT reduction and the whole package of financial help that has continued to come through this year.

“We have been really lucky to have a great team and really great customers, and the staff are looking forward to coming back and increasing their hours back to normal.”

He said he was optimistic that Torbay could see one of its busiest ever years, with a combination of local customers making the most of their new freedom, as well as an expected influx of staycation visitors.

The business is one of 2,550 which have shared the £87.8million in support grants handed out by Torbay Council on behalf of the Government.

Berry Head, Brixham

Berry Head, Brixham - Credit: English Riviera BID Company

Mr Foley praised the way the scheme had been run, which meant after the business was registered, further grants were distributed automatically.

Mr Foley, a business adviser, and his wife, who ran walking holidays in Italy, moved to Torbay to take over the cafe in 2014 , and have since become parents to two young daughters.