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How Covid-19 has affected seafront attractions

PUBLISHED: 16:09 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:24 03 September 2020

Landau driver Ronnie Bilyard has enjoyed a busy summer season on Great Yarmouth seafront, helping to make up for a slow start Picture: Liz Coates

Landau driver Ronnie Bilyard has enjoyed a busy summer season on Great Yarmouth seafront, helping to make up for a slow start Picture: Liz Coates

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In a normal year the prospect of queues outside shops and attractions would have traders rubbing their hands with glee.

Joyland on September 2, 2020. Owner Michael Cole said limits on capacity had dented takings, although he was happy to be open Picture: Liz CoatesJoyland on September 2, 2020. Owner Michael Cole said limits on capacity had dented takings, although he was happy to be open Picture: Liz Coates

But 2020 has not been a normal year.

At Joyland Michael Cole, while happy to see people standing in line outside his famous 71-year-old attraction, is frustrated he can’t always let them all in.

“Some people are happy to stand in a queue for 20 minutes, others just give up and go,” he said.

While limits on capacity mean the amusement park is as safe as it can be, it also means there’s less money in the pot for investment, as he tries to give loyal staff the hours he can.

Steven Phillips and Kevin Brown outside Barker's gift shop on Great Yarmouth seafront. Mr Phillips said the peak summer weeks had been busy Picture: Liz CoatesSteven Phillips and Kevin Brown outside Barker's gift shop on Great Yarmouth seafront. Mr Phillips said the peak summer weeks had been busy Picture: Liz Coates

Meanwhile, a one-way system means an entrance from the beachside and Britannia Pier are closed off creating a dead end at what is usually one of the busiest areas.

It means trade at the amusement arcade is down 75pc and hardly worth opening.

“The difficulty we have is that we are operating on limited numbers because of capacity,” Mr Cole says.

“We are very good value and we really need a high volume of people to come in so we are down on what we normally trade as. Once we hit capacity it could be 20 minutes.

Herbert Gray and his son Herb, aged eight. Mr Gray says Yarmouth has a lot to offer and hopes his son goes into the family business operating seaside shops Picture: Liz CoatesHerbert Gray and his son Herb, aged eight. Mr Gray says Yarmouth has a lot to offer and hopes his son goes into the family business operating seaside shops Picture: Liz Coates

“But it is better than being closed. It has not been a complete disaster or a roaring success.

“We are making the best of a bad job.”

To compensate for the weeks lost at the beginning of the year he is planning some November weekend openings, weather permitting,

On this sunny September day Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile is glinting in a warm autumn glow and it’s not all doom and gloom.

The cafes are busy with people enjoying continental-style outdoor seating, ushered in during the pandemic and it seems plenty of people want to play crazy golf.

A stone’s throw from Joyland the landau drivers are among those squeezing the last drops of custom from this year’s season.

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Ronnie Bilyard is one of the old guard, having driven trippers up and down Marine Parade for some 50 years - and one of a dwindling number on the seafront.

Like many of the seafront traders he only has a small window to make his money and is trying to make up for lost time.

He says he didnt get started until July 6 and that since then the season has been a success, helped by the retirement of others on the rank.

“I haven’t seen so many people on the seafront for years,” he said, adding: “Next year will be okay as well. It will be a while before people start going abroad again.”

Further along, seafront trader Herbert Gray is the third generation serving holidaymakers in Yarmouth tracing his proud pedigree to the days when they rented bathing booths on the sands.

When they reopened in June they were losing money, he said, but the main six week season had been a success.

He felt the seafront had been busier than previous years, helping his string of businesses including the Slush Shack.

Compared to how the summer started he said they were grateful to get out of trouble with not many days lost to bad weather.

However, it meant trying to make nearly all their income in just seven weeks, so September needed to deliver.

Steven Phillips at Barkers, a shop brimming with seaside gifts and trinkets like personalised drinks bottles and sunglasses, said there had been plenty of people out and about willing to spend money.

The shop is one of several branches in the town which have been trading since 1973. Although the season had been slow to start things had picked up and overall he was happy, he said.

At Kilbrannnan Guest House, there had been much rejigging of bookings and also a surge in door-knockers, many of whom were out of luck.

Gary Smith said: “Most of the new customers we have picked up were originally booked to go abroad somewhere and were forced to holiday in the UK. I have to say, most of these people were delighted by what was on offer in this area and plan to return.”

On the downside having missed out on Easter and a raft of festivals there will be many that have lost revenue overall and look to open for longer to recoup.

The opportunities for social distancing along the prom and on the beaches have proved a draw - but had an impact on rubbish.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the environment committee at the borough council said the amount of waste being collected was up by 30pc and that more bins had been put on the seafront to cope.


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