Lockdown anniversary: Bognor businesses reflect on a hard year

Today (March 23), on the one year anniversary of lockdown, we asked Bognor businesses about the trials, tribulations and successes of an unprecedented year.

Paul Tiernan, owner of the mini golf course
Paul Tiernan, owner of the mini golf course

Though many businesses remarked how tough the last year has been, both personally and professionally, they also said they were blown away by the loyalty and support of their customers.

Craig Mustard, who co-owns Mustard’s Bar and Restaurant with his brother, said: “Our following’s really strong and the people around here have always been loyal to us. We see the same people week in, week out. The same people everyday. It’s great and we appreciate it massively.”

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With his restaurant closed for the majority of the last year, Mr Mustard, like many other Bognor Regis business owners, has had to adapt to stay in business. The take-away service he came up with was a steep, but ultimately worthwhile, challenge, forcing him to adjust to an entirely new mode of service.

Mustards bar and restaurant

He said: “It’s been pretty good to be fair. We’re lucky to have such a good following from local people. They’ve really helped keep our head above the water. We had an amazing first year when we opened, and that’s unheard of for restaurants, which usually take two or three years to start making money, but thanks to that, and thanks to the people who support us, we’re still here and we’ll continue to be here. But I imagine some places are really feeling the pinch.”

Paul Tiernan, who has owned the seafront mini golf course since 1993, said he was similarly grateful for the support of local customers and regulars from all over the country.

“Our customers are great,” he said “We have so much support. We had one customer who phoned me up last night and said ‘we’re so looking forward to having you open again.’ Customers like that become friends. They, build up a rapport with you, spend some time at the course and all of a sudden they’re your friend.”

Unable to change their model to fit a lockdown economy, Mr Tiernan has used the last year to refurbish the course, building new attractions and giving old ones a fresh coat of paint. Like many business owners, he’s worked to make the best of a challenging situation. “It’s not just me, it’s everyone. We’ve all been in the same boat, but hopefully, as we come out of lockdown, there aren’t any new variants to throw a spanner in the works.” He said.

The spirit of resilience epitomised by Mr Tiernan and Mr Mustard was praised by mayor Phil Woodard, who said: “we must take pride as a community in how resilient we have become. How we have taken care of our neighbours, our loved ones, from afar. I have been in awe of the strength and determination of our NHS carers, our local charities and food-banks, and of our businesses, which are now looking to find their feet again.”

With lockdown restrictions being lifted and vaccines rolling out, the future might look positive, but it is still uncertain, and many businesses don’t know what lies ahead. Even so, and despite the myriad challenges of the last year, Heath Allen, co-director of the Bognor Regis Business Improvement District (BID) said she believes the town will rise to the occasion. “I have every confidence that, when we focus and pull together, businesses, residents and investors old and new will be part of a new era for Bognor Regis, one that respects our strong heritage, but is also forward-thinking and brimming with new ideas.”