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Owners of a hotel that has been a family business for generations explains how the furlough and business support schemes have given them hope during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the Welsh Bream brothers closing the doors of their 64-bedroom Merrion Hotel on the Llandudno seafront in the middle of peak season was a heartbreaking and financially worrying decision.

Due to the Government-Imposed coronavirus lockdown, shutting their doors became not only financially worrying but also personally heartbreaking. For Paul Bream, who runs the hotel with his brother Gareth, it isn’t just bricks and mortar. It’s right at the very heart of his family, and they faced the fear of possibly never reopening.

“The business has been in my family since 1949 – for four generations,” explains Paul Bream.

“This is more than bricks and mortar to us; this is who we are. It’s part of our family and part of our identity, so to say that it’s important to us wouldn’t even get close.

“We have heritage here, long-standing relationships with guests who have been coming for years. We’re part of their lives, and they’re part of ours.

“At the moment, we would be in the heart of our season. It’s the first time in 70 years that this kind of thing has ever happened and to be closed as we are through the season is bizarre.”

Brothers Paul and Gareth Bream run the Merrion Hotel in Llandudno, North Wales, they have had support to help see their business survive the Covid19 lockdown. Pictured view from the promenade of the seaside resort (Picture Credit: Mark Waugh)

Facing the responsibility of the 47 staff’s livelihoods on the books and bills to pay for the building, having no guests caused a huge problem. But a package of support from the UK government has proved invaluable in helping the business weather such a difficult time.

“We kept our commitment to staff in the hope that something would come along, but it was deeply unsettling because we just didn’t know what was going to happen,” adds Paul.

“And then the UK government announced the furlough scheme and we just breathed a sigh of relief. We could hunker down for a bit.”

Fortunately, the furlough scheme allowed the hotel to cover all staff wages without making anyone redundant. And they have also benefited from business rate relief provided by the Welsh Government.

In addition to this, the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), has allowed the Bream brothers to stay afloat until they can reopen.

“Obviously with a building this size – we’re a 120-year-old building – the standing costs don’t stop simply because we lock the front door.

“We have ongoing costs which we can’t get away from. For example, our broadband alone costs about £500 a month.

Brothers Paul and Gareth Bream run the Merrion Hotel in Llandudno, North Wales, they have had support to help see their business survive the Covid19 lockdown. Pictured Paul and Gareth outside their large hotel (Picture Credit: Mark Waugh)

“So we wanted to make sure that we had enough liquidity in the business for however long this lasts and not have any issues with our suppliers and be ready to hit the ground running when the lockdown is lifted.

“Business for me is all about relationships, both from the customer side and the supplier side. It’s very, very important to us that our suppliers have confidence in us because it’s a two-way street – we have to work with them and trust them and vice versa.”

For the brothers, the speed their bank processed the loan, helped in alleviating some of the worries at an incredibly stressful time.

“The CBILS loan was offered at the beginning of this, and we weren’t sure whether the scheme would be withdrawn or reduced or changed, so we took the loan while it was on offer – whether we used it or not was another thing.

“Barclays has been superb with us, we are very fortunate to have a great relationship with our manager. They understand our business and have gone to great lengths to help us.”