Wimbledon Businesses Prepare for a New Normal

Town centre recovery plan factoring in social distancing and a reduced footfall

The team at Neptune in The Broadway, Wimbledon

The team at Neptune in The Broadway, Wimbledon

It has been two months since businesses in Wimbledon closed their doors due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Now planning is underway for a ‘new normal’ as non-essential shops are due to reopen on June 15.

However pubs, cafes and restaurants are expected to be the last to reopen so restrictions are likely to stay in place throughout the summer.

Business Improvement District Love Wimbledon is now working on a recovery plan for the town centre factoring in social distancing and a reduced footfall.

Portuguese restaurant, The Adega, has been adapting to a new way of working, opening up for takeaways last week.

The eatery which is located on The Broadway has had to furlough its staff members and is being run solely by brothers Carlos and Luis Silva at the moment.

Carlos told us: “We have had our regular customers picking up orders from the door. We use masks and gloves and keep a distance.

“We’re happy to be working again and making a bit of money – the rents are high.”

The company received a £25,000 grant from the government but it did not go very far after it had to pay the £10,000 monthly rent and March wages.

And now the brothers are thinking about whether they could make it work when people are able to start going to restaurants again.

“At the moment I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Carlos.

“The takeaway is okay for now but it is different when there’s people in for the atmosphere.

“It would be difficult to socially distance but it’s possible to reorganise it, we have a big restaurant.

“It would be lovely to open tomorrow but we don’t know yet what’s safe or not.”

The Silva brothers have run The Adega in Wimbledon for two years
The Silva brothers have run The Adega in Wimbledon for two years

Also in The Broadway is homeware shop, Neptune, which has been operating an appointment-only service for a couple of weeks now.

Earlier this month, homeware stores joined supermarkets and cycle shops as essential retailers that could reopen under government guidance.

Neptune manager Nicola Sampson said: “The style of customer service we offer we’re in quite close proximity to the customers.

“The measures we’ve put in place haven’t been as stringent as supermarkets with screens and masks because we don’t have huge footfall traffic.

“There will be a 25 customers maximum limit, we’ve got quite a big showroom – it is about how comfortable me and the team feel about it as well.

“If it seems too busy we will just hold people at the door. Someone will be based at the front and customers will follow a loop around the showroom.”

And Nicola said she thinks that the pavement outside the shop is big enough for people to queue safely while keeping their distance from other pedestrians.

Nicola Sampson is the manager at Neptune in Wimbledon
Nicola Sampson is the manager at Neptune in Wimbledon

CEO Helen Clark-Bell revealed that the organisation is working on a plan for businesses in Wimbledon to get back to ‘normal’.

Speaking at a virtual meeting hosted by the Merton Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, she said: “We are working with national experts on a recovery plan for the town centre so it enables a safe and responsible experience for anyone in town in the future.

“Managing social distancing will be a challenge in a town like ours where narrow pavements and lack of public space doesn’t allow for easy movement.”

Art installation ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ in Alwyne Road was created by Love Wimbledon, in collaboration with artist Louis Masai and photographer Cindy Sashain December 2019

A lot of shops and cafes in Wimbledon rely on the business of officer workers, but if employers change the way they work and people work from home for a while, this trade will be missed in the town centre.


Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

March 8, 2020