‘Ring of steel’ around Conservative party conference halves independent businesses profits

  • Additional reporting by Zoe Spencer and George Mew
  • Businesses next to conference centre cordoned off by security fencing face losses
  • Denied compensation and closure during the conference
  • Road closure impact delivery drivers and customers

In preparation for the Conservative party conference, security measures have been put in place, including large barricades, metal and concrete fencing as well as a visibly increased police presence in the area.

Security outside Midland Hotel. Photo by Anna Klekot

The distinct change has posed a challenging time for the local businesses. This has particularly affected Haunt MCR, an independent Italian coffee shop and wine bar on Mount Street.

 “We don’t even look open,” Abaigh, a barista at Haunt, told NQ. They are currently making “less than half of what they usually make”, she added.

“I don’t know anyone who would wanna walk through armed guards to get a cappuccino”.

Haunt coffee shop. Photo by Zoe Spencer

Abaigh said: “I’ve managed to hold my tongue for the last few days.”

Director of the company, Sam, said that “operationally, it has been very tough,” with staff taking on increased responsibilities. He added: “We need to pay staff more to do the extra work and we are losing staff to meet delivery drivers.”

Business damaged

 Sam asked the council for compensation over the incoming disruption, even asking for the coffee shop to be temporarily shut over the period of the conference.

He said: “They weren’t prepared to do that. Their argument is that we are really close to the event and everyone is staying [in around the area].

“I’ve kind of accepted that we aren’t gonna get money back” and said that “I found the response quite glib and uncompassionate.”

Sam said that it is “easy to assume by looking at a map” that the business would be unaffected; but being trapped in the ring of steel has been “massively damaging to business… we’ve got a lovely venue blocked off by fencing.”  

Increased police presence on Peter Street. Photo by George Mew

Across the road, a spokesperson for Frurt said “anyone outside the city centre that doesn’t live locally is no longer coming in”. 

They added that “because of the disruption on the roads and the lack of parking around the city centre” it poses a challenge for anyone outside of the city centre to visit.