Yorkshire couple lose only income after closing coffee shop to protect customers

A Yorkshire couple who have lost their income after closing their coffee shop to protect local residents from coronavirus have spoken about the difficult decision.

Chris and Sarah Sharp, who run The Annexe coffee shop in Copmanthorpe, North Yorkshire, announced they could not "in good conscience" keep the business open and risk people transmitting the virus by gathering there.

The couple, who made the decision before the government closed all cafes yesterday, have some savings but will be relying on government help for small businesses from April in order to pay the rent on the property and their one part-time staff member.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

After being busier than usual last week as many commuters stayed local, Mr Sharp, 49, said it became increasingly difficult to justify keeping the cafe open.

The owners posted on social media and put a sign on the cafe's door. Pic: Gary Longbottom

“When the schools were open we’d have mums coming in here for a coffee after dropping their kids off. This seemed fine because their children were mixing at school and, if they were being exposed to bugs, their parents would have them too. But after the government announced that schools would be closing, it no longer seemed right to stay open.”

The couple closed the shop during the day yesterday and, as the final customers left they bought about £50 worth of cakes that would have otherwise gone to waste, in order to support the business.

Mr Sharp said he feared the situation would get worse before it gets better.

"Who knows where we'll be in seven days time? A week ago I never expected to be closing the shop.

Chris Sharp closed the cafe because he feared the situation would get worse before it gets better. Pic: Gary Longbottom

"This could get really bad. It could get to the point in six months' time where half of us aren't working."

Mr Sharp expressed frustration at the government urging the public to avoid places like coffee shops on Monday but without ordering them to close, making it difficult for the company to try to claim on insurance.

He added that the situation penalised responsible cafe owners.

However, last night, Boris Johnson announced cafes would need to close.

The Prime Minister said: "We are telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not reopen tomorrow."

In a post to the company’s followers on social media, the couple said: “The Annexe is our sole source of income. Our costs, rent, wages etc. continue when we are closed. We cannot afford to close. So though all our justification, fundamentally we remained open because this is our livelihood.”

The post added: “It is impossible to predict what the future will hold. We hope that we will be able to reopen sooner, yet fear it will be much later.

“Please stay safe, and stay home.

“Sarah and Chris.”

In 11 years of running the popular cafe in the village where they live, the couple have never been forced to close for any length of time.