By Grahame Anderson

Tony Singh is more than just a local businessman putting a brave face on the current pandemic and hoping for a better future.

He’s also a pillar of the close community on South Tyneside regularly feted both for his charity work and the fact he cares about those around him The area may have escaped more coronavirus sanctions, but even staying in tier two means huge problems for everyone in the hospitality industry hanging on grimly to the hope things will come good soon.

To be honest being in that second tier is the worst case scenario in many ways for all sorts of reasons,” he told me. It simply means we stay in a vacuum with no clear vision of how we can move forward.

The government poured billions of pounds into the crisis in the early days, but now when people really need the money it’s suddenly a struggle. What we have is a strategy of bits here and pieces there. It means we can’t even plan ahead with much confidence so it’s extremely frustrating especially in you’re in business.

If we had total lockdown again for two, four or six weeks before everything opened up at least we’d know where we stand and could look to the future. The truth is, when the furlough scheme stops, we’ll really be in trouble. Not just me, but many others in the same industry.”

Popular Entrepreneur

The popular entrepreneur from West Meadows Road in Cleadon, remains fully committed to the pubs he owns, though his top pride and joy is the events and weddings venue otherwise known as Hedworth Hall.

It’s an architecturally elegant building built in 1919, still retaining many of its original features. Tony’s is very much a family run business with many years’ experience in the food and beverage industry. They provide a full wedding service including the wedding ceremony itself as they are registered and certified. The venue’s warm, friendly atmosphere is the perfect place for dining and socialising. They have a dedicated in-house catering team who are more than happy to discuss your requirements.

Clear Message Required

Don’t get me wrong what we got from the government financially was greatly appreciated. But what we really needs now is a clearer message, so we can start again when the time is right.

There seems to be no end game, and we can’t keep losing money forever. South Tyneside Council would love to help, but they just haven’t been given the funds from government.

We were fully booked throughout December of this year – now we are having to give everyone their money back. Even those people due to hold their wedding at Hedworth in October and November have now cancelled until next year. The ironic thing is this was set to be our best year ever, until the March lockdown kicked in. Even our popular Saturday and Sunday lunches have been badly hit.”

Staff Loyalty

Tony has purposely avoided laying any of the seven staff off at Hedworth because he believes in loyalty and they’ve been with him a long time. In fact they’ve been working a couple of days each week just to keep things ticking over.

He added: “I’ve been here for more than 11 years and you get to know all sorts of people in a community like this. It is nice to feel part of the community and the community has always supported my businesses, so it’s good to give back when I can. I’m a dad of course and family is very important here in the North East, and of course we have lots of regulars in the pubs.”

In fact, over the years Tony has worked hard for local charities St Clare’s Hospice; Cancer Connections and good cause Cruse – supporting bereaved children. And there are many others on the list. In essence, he admits to being a South Tynesider through and through.

Staying Philosophical

He remains philosophical about what has so far been the strangest of years in what are clearly turbulent times for everyone, saying: “It’s hard but you just have to keep smiling and get on with things. We just have to keep the faith and hope things will settle down going into next year.”

For now, Tony Singh is looking for any sign of an end game while remaining steadfast in his belief community is everything.