Local businesses suffer as Wimbledon queues hit by Covid restrictions

·3-min read

Local businesses are bracing for another hard year after Wimbledon’s famous queues were replaced with an advance ticket system.

As the gates opened to fans in south-west London, business owners said they are not seeing the same upturn in trade they usually enjoy during the two-week tournament.

Thousands usually camp out hoping to get tickets, but this year the queue has been scrapped due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Fans can only gain entry if they have bought tickets in advance.

In addition, reduced numbers are being allowed into the All England Club to watch matches, with the regular large number of American tourists unable to attend.

Ben Pritchard, 37, general manager of Hemingway’s Bar in Wimbledon Village, said: “Wimbledon Fortnight usually makes about a quarter of our annual revenue.

“With all the American tourists not being around, which make up a lot of our Wimbledon revenue, we are looking at as much as 50% (of revenue on previous years).

“The biggest loss isn’t just the way they changed the ticketing, it’s the Covid restriction on people travelling into the country because a lot of the corporate sponsors will bring people in.

“It’s not the position you want to be in. You normally get that Wimbledon buffer. You’re busy, you take a lot of money and you make a fair bit and that floats the business for the rest of the year if anything does go wrong.”

Ed Savitt, 30, owner of Dropshot Coffee, said: “It’s like a nice weekend day. Usually there are people running in the street up to Wimbledon.

“There’s usually a much better vibe but now, not really. Without having the queuing system there’s no-one coming down who had queued overnight. That was huge for us.

“Those who already have their tickets sorted and debenture holders usually have their cars taking them directly to the tennis.”

Debenture tickets are high-value tickets which guarantee entry to the main courts.

Mr Savitt said he is concerned about the weeks after Wimbledon as short-term lets end and footfall suffers as homeowners do not immediately return.

He said his business has become reliant on locals rather than tourists.

Fans arrive for day one
Fans arrive for day one (Adam Davy/PA)

“A lot of guys who use the same coffee supplier as me who are based in the City, I know how difficult it has been for them.

“I think the local Southfields community are doing whatever they can to help independent businesses stay afloat and the people that I talk to have been busier than other places are at this time.

“This two weeks doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as it normally would do because I know the locals are going to stay away for a few weeks.”

Robin, owner of RJ Cabs in Wimbledon, said: “In the old days we would have had 20 cars going backwards and forwards but not any more.

“Even the black taxis, I haven’t noticed many of them lining up. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic, maybe it’s fear of spreading the virus, I don’t know.

“The virus has ruined many businesses and survival is the name of the game, especially if you are a small business like I am.”

Robin added that he does not expect a full recovery for his business until next year when the country is fully vaccinated and consumer confidence returns.

Wimbledon is part of the Government’s Events Research Programme, with capacity for the first week set at 50%.

This is due to rise to full capacity for the finals weekend.

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