Struggling café owner takes swipe at covid grant system

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24th February 2021

By Matt Dixon

A cafe owner at a popular beauty spot near Truro has hit out at the covid-19 grant system. Joanne Medcalf, who owns Woodman's Cabin at Idless, has told the Voice about her struggles to keep the business afloat during the pandemic.

"We were told that we weren't eligible for a grant in the first lockdown because we are self-employed and the cabin is on our land, so we didn't qualify because we don't pay rates.

"We were then given a grant in November but the council website then said if we got a grant in November, we need not apply for the January grant.

"The website then changed a week before the cut off date of January 31, saying that we did need to apply, so I did –and now I've been told that we're going to get less than half the grant as the council has run out of money."

Joanne and her husband Toby moved to Idless in 2017 and opened the cabin in March the following year. It has grown in popularity over the last three years and she is very grateful to all her regular customers who have supported them during the past 12 months.

"It's very difficult – the car park for the woods is full but we haven't been very busy because people want to sit down and eat, but we can't have benches out during lockdown.

"Even when we could use the benches last summer we were only allowed to have half our usual amount in order to maintain social distancing," she said. Joanne added that similar cafes to hers were also ahead of her in the queue for grants because the council prioritised those which had employees, in order to keep them in work.

"The reason that the council has run out of money is because they've given money to second home owners who use them as holiday lets,” she said. "We're struggling to keep the business going, but they easily could sell their properties if they need the money, rather than taking grant money which people like us really need."

Joanne's husband lost his job when lockdown began last year and although he now has employment, they have been left with no choice but to take out a personal bank loan to make ends meet and pay the mortgage.

The cabin, which ran popular theme nights such as a hog roast and Punk Thai, was deprived of a full summer season as lockdown was not lifted until early July.

Since then Joanne has tried to open as much as she can but due to running costs can currently only open from Thursday to Sunday. She will be seven days a week from Easter through to October, opening at 10am each day selling hot and cold drinks, breakfast, sandwiches, cakes and more. Woodman’s Cabin is at the entrance to the Forestry Commission-owned Idless Woods.

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