The reasons for Southport Market being closed most Mondays and Tuesdays have been revealed, due to the “unprecedented staff shortage in the hospitality sector”. 

The venue opened its doors as a stylish new food, drink and events venue in July last year following a £1.4million transformation led by Sefton Council. 

It has proved to be a superb success, leading to 140 extra spaces for diners being created both inside and outside the facility to cope with demand. 

Southport Market was initially due to operate six days a week, with a day off on Monday. 

At the moment it is closed most Mondays and Tuesdays, with the venue not alone among hospitality venues being “hit by a huge shortage in staff”. 

It has “been embraced” by local people since its opening, despite operating through a challenging first year which has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, staffing shortages in the hospitality industry and now by the current cost of living crisis. 

In his report to councillors next week, Sefton Council Executive Director Stephen Watson said: “The trading environment for the hospitality sector in 2021 saw significant changes and challenges due to Covid-19, throughout the summer of 2021 and then into the main Christmas trading period. 

“Covid-19 caused several changes to the Market;  

“Opening Date – due to the restrictions placed on hospitality venues The Market did not open until the 22nd of July 2021. This meant the operation missed out trading in Easter Holidays along with the start of the visitor economy season.  

“Operational days – The initial thinking was a six-day operation with a Monday closure. However due to the difficulties in obtaining stock and an unprecedented staff shortage in the hospitality sector the market opens five days with the market closed Monday and Tuesday. 

“This has remained the case due to staffing issues in the sector, though does flex with regards to school holidays and bank holidays  

“Recruitment – The hospitality sector was hit by a huge shortage in staff, this led to chefs and servers leaving at short notice meaning some traders had to close at short notice until new chefs could be recruited. 

“The recruitment of a dedicated Marketing and Events officer was also impacted, the role was not recruited until November 2021.  

“Footfall – the new variants of covid-19 had a visible impact on footfall in the shoulder seasons (September-November) in Southport. Midweek footfall was adversely impacted with many of the older demographic staying away. Also due to the collapse of coach travel and the continued closure of the STCC meaning no major conferences had a visible impact on visitor footfall in Southport. 

“However, September 2021 was still a very strong month for The Market that seemed to buck on some of the trends.  December was very busy due to the Christmas activity, however with no year-on-year comparison it is difficult to measure. 

“The hospitality sector has still not fully recovered from Covid-19, and now the cost of living crisis is further impacting the sector, this is evidenced in the recent summer season and is forecasted to remain for the year and into next. 

The first birthday celebrations at Southport Market. Photo by Mark Shirley

The first birthday celebrations at Southport Market. Photo by Mark Shirley

“Alongside the continued proactive focus on driving footfall and therefore revenues, the Council will continue to work collaboratively with operating partners to ensure continued shared success in an increasingly competitive environment.

“There must be no complacency in respect of customer footfall, customer experience, etc, and there will be focus on ensuring continued quality and value, and a programme of events that supports customer footfall. 

“We will also commission a third-party review of the hospitality sector, given its importance to Sefton’s economy, including focus on key current and future projects in the sector (including but not limited to Southport Market).”

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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