“Our workers are only human” Blackpool’s stricken hospitality venues call for kindness as staff face abuse from customers amid Covid confusion

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Bosses at resort venue Viva have spoken out to protect hospitality employees who have been subject to repeated abuse since returning to work after the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Viva show venue are currently recruiting for more staff to serve in the bar and restaurant.Viva show venue are currently recruiting for more staff to serve in the bar and restaurant.

There have been numerous reports of workers being confronted by aggressive customers angry at longer waiting times for food and drink.

It comes as leisure bosses revealed they are also suffering a “severe” shortage of staff, as many businesses struggle to re-adjust with the lifting of Covid restrictions.

Blackpool welcomed scores of visitors for the half term break and Viva managing director Martin Heywood said whilst the team loved seeing guests returning, it had been “heartbreaking” to witness abuse towards workers.

The team at Viva were delighted to enjoy a series of sell-out shows following their reopening but say frustrations with new guidelines has led to angry customers abusing staffThe team at Viva were delighted to enjoy a series of sell-out shows following their reopening but say frustrations with new guidelines has led to angry customers abusing staff

He said frustrations with table service – a requirement under the reopening rules – had led to customers swearing and tearing down their “hard-working staff”.

He added: “Reading negative reviews about staff and wait times across the industry is heartbreaking.

“This is not just about our restaurant and bar but a collective shout-out to the already stretched hospitality industry as a whole.

“We’ve had customers swear and be abusive to our staff, as have other venues because they’ve had to wait for their food or drinks.“We know it can be frustrating but please try and be patient and understanding.

“We are going as fast as we possibly can.”

Martin said the “furlough hangover” has had a direct effect on recruitment, with many leaving the industry and Viva’s already over-stretched team has had to learn a number of new systems to meet the Covid guidelines.

He said: “There is a severe national hospitality staffing crisis, meaning many places including ours are under staffed to cope with the sheer amount of customers.

“At Viva and in other venues too, we’re constantly adapting and trying new things such as opening at reduced capacity, reduced menu offering, encouraging pre-visit drinks ordering, and introducing digital mobile ordering to give our customers the best and most efficient service possible, whilst not draining our much-loved and appreciated employees.”

Bosses on Blackpool’s piers echoed Martin’s sentiments after reporting similar issues.The resort enjoyed a bumper bank holiday and half-term break, with crowds enjoying the sunshine by the seaside.

Blackpool records 25 new Covid cases in 24 hours as under-30s invited to book jab this week

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Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre have now 21,256 Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

There have now been 102,398 confirmed cases in the Lancashire County Council area since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest government data released today (June 6).

Meanwhile, the total across Lancashire, including Blackpool and Blackburn and Darwen, now stands at 132,396.
Under-30s invited to book Covid jab from this week
The latest Government data has been revealed.
The latest Government data has been revealed.

How many coronavirus cases are there in Lancashire?

Public Health England records cases for each council area. The latest totals for each area in Lancashire are:

Blackburn with Darwen – 20,475 (Up from 20,363) +112

Blackpool – 9,523 (Up from 9,498) +25

Burnley – 10,422 (Up from 10,388) +34

Chorley – 8,383 (Up from 8,345) +38

Fylde – 4,945 (Up from 4,937) +8

Hyndburn – 8,471 (Up from 8,434) +37

Lancaster – 9,667 (Up from 9,655) +12

Pendle – 10,010 (Up from 9,981) +29

Preston – 14,535 (Up from 14,485) +50

Ribble Valley – 4,862 (Up from 4,834) +28

Rossendale – 6,669 (Up from 6,629) +40

South Ribble – 8,612 (Up from 8,541) +71

West Lancs – 9,034 (Up from 9,028) +6

Wyre – 6,788 (Up from 6,776) +2

Kenny Dougall earns first international cap for Australia just days after scoring the goals that secured Blackpool’s promotion to the Championship

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Just four days on from scoring the goals that promoted Blackpool to the Championship, Kenny Dougall earned his first international cap.

 

It’s been the perfect week for the Australian, who scored both goals at Wembley on Sunday during Blackpool’s 2-1 win over Lincoln City in the League One play-off final.

The 28-year-old couldn’t celebrate for too long though, as he immediately jetted off to Kuwait on Monday to link up with his international teammates.

While Dougall didn’t start in Australia’s World Cup qualifying 3-0 victory over Kuwait, he came off the bench in the 64th minute to feature for the Socceroos for the first time.

Dougall becomes the 50th player to earn an international cap while playing for the Seasiders.

The first player to do so was Fred Griffiths, for Wales, in 1900.

Dougall becomes the second Blackpool player to represent Australia after David Carney was capped during the 2010/11 season.

Dougall was Blackpool's hero at Wembley on SundayDougall was Blackpool’s hero at Wembley on Sunday

While the former Barnsley man had previously represented his country at youth level and had been part of international camps, this was his first senior cap.

Dougall will be hoping to add further caps in the coming days, with Australia taking on Chinese Taipei (June 7), Nepal (June 11) and Jordan (June 15).

The Socceroos have now won all five of their World Cup qualifiers and look certain to reach next year’s competition in Qatar.

Elsewhere, Dan Ballard picked up his eighth international cap as he played all 90 minutes of Northern Ireland’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine.

The 21-year-old, who now returns to Arsenal following the end of his loan spell at Bloomfield Road, linked up with Ian Baraclough’s squad on Monday.

It meant the defender missed Northern Ireland’s 3-0 friendly win over Malta on Sunday, having been part of the Blackpool side to win at Wembley.

 

Blackpool reveal the winners of the club’s player of the season awards following promotion-winning campaign

Chris Maxwell has been voted Blackpool’s player of the season.

 

Chris Maxwell has been named Blackpool’s player of the season.

The goalkeeper claims the club’s official award after captaining the Seasiders to promotion to the Championship.

The 30-year-old kept an impressive 21 clean sheets in League One this season, which saw him win the division’s ‘Golden Glove’ award.

Blackpool also boasted the meanest defence in the third tier with Maxwell in-between the sticks, the men in tangerine conceding just 37 goals in 46 games.

Maxwell, the winner of the club’s public vote, admitted it was a huge honour to claim the gong.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” the goalkeeper told Blackpool’s play-off winning show.

Chris Maxwell has been voted Blackpool's player of the seasonChris Maxwell has been voted Blackpool’s player of the season

“It’s been such an incredible season and Sunday was such an amazing, emotional day. To receive this is just the cherry on top of the cake for me.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season, but it’s been such a deserving end to the season for everybody

“It’s definitely been the best season of my career.”

Maxwell faced fierce competition for the award from Jerry Yates, but the club’s top goalscorer still claimed a trophy in the form of the players’ player of the season.

Yates takes the club’s official award after scoring 23 goals in 54 games in all competitions this season.

The 24-year-old has made himself a firm fans’ favourite in his first season with the club, having joined last summer from Rotherham United.

Yates became the first Blackpool player this season to hit 20 goals in a campaign since Andy Morrell in 2007.

Elsewhere, Sullay Kaikai’s strike in the 1-0 win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in April was voted the club’s goal of the season.

The Gazette will be launching its player of the season vote tomorrow.

Blackpool loans firm branches out with double tree planting schemes to aid environment

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A Blackpool consumer lender is aiming to do its bit to save the planet, by signing up to two tree planting projects.

 

Oplo, which has its offices on the Airport enterprise zone at Sir Frank Whittle Way, is teaming up with Trees for Life in the Scottish Highlands, to plant a new tree in its Oplo Grove for every new customer choosing to take out a loan with Oplo.

A similar approach is being taken in its sustainability partnership with Leighton Hall Estate, Carnforth. The aim here is to re-establish woodland with the planting of up to 30,000 trees.

Oplo was founded 12 years ago by chief executive Alex Mollart.

Oplo's Blackpool offices at the airport enterprise zoneOplo’s Blackpool offices at the airport enterprise zone

It was originally called First Stop but rebranded in August last year.

It has more than £300m assets under management and offers personal loans, home loans and car finance to the emerging “new mainstream” market of consumers seeking credit.

Steve McNicholas, chief people officer, said: “Creating a positive social impact is a big part of why Oplo exists. We have a track record of doing business the right way while delivering a positive impact for our customers, our people and our community and we want to extend this impact to the planet.

“We are delighted to offer our customers and our employees a practical, hassle-free option to make a meaningful and genuine difference to protecting our planet.

Leighton Hall near Silverdale which Oplo is helping to plat 30,000 treesLeighton Hall near Silverdale which Oplo is helping to plat 30,000 trees

Lucy Arthurs, estate manager at Leighton Hall Estate said: “Oplo’s support accelerates our ability to re-establish woodlands that contribute to the national drive for long term stabilization and reduction in carbon.

“By having a local partner we can create a sense of ownership by encouraging employees to not only help to plant the trees, but also bulbs and woodland fauna such as primroses.”

Colin Mackenzie-Blackman, head of fundraising and Engagement at Trees for Life, said: “Rewilding requires long-term vision and commitment which is why we are delighted to welcome Oplo as partners with Trees for Life, a wild forest in the Scottish Highlands.”

 

Blackpool woman goes above and beyond to launch dream wedding and events business

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When Boris gave the go-ahead for weddings of up to 30 people in spring, it started a race to launch a dream business for one Blackpool woman.

 

Lauren Thornton, 25, has started wedding and event styling company, Above and Beyond Events and opened a showroom in Church Street, Blackpool.

The former Montgomery student has always had an interest in table dressing and noticed a niche in the market from planning her own wedding to husband Daniel.

The year of lockdowns has hit weddings hard but when restrictions were relaxed to allow up to 30 guests, Lauren seized her chance to start her business as the ideal location for her showroom, next door to a Lula Ella Brides was available to create a one stop shop for brides and grooms.

Lauren Thornton, has launched wedding and event styling company, Above and Beyond EventsLauren Thornton, has launched wedding and event styling company, Above and Beyond Events

Lauren, who studied English at Lancaster University, said: “It started from a young age, I loved dressing the table at my nana’s for the family roast and when we got married I noticed a gap in the market. Our eyes were opened by just how expensive things were.

“It has been a bit of a whirlwind, from when Boris gave the go-ahead, I heard about this premises and thought it was ideal.

“We had a baby boy at the start of the year, Jesse, so it has been hectic.

“Brides and grooms can shop for integral elements for their special day, such as the perfect dress and suits alongside our range of luxury centerpieces and venue styling all under one roof.

The business has opened a showroom in BlackpoolThe business has opened a showroom in Blackpool

“The showroom is a vast space showcasing our bestselling items such as luxurious centerpieces, chair decor, arches and flower walls. We have become a recommended venue dresser for a vast amount of venues across Lancashire and the feedback we have received from our couples and other vendors in the industry has been hugely gratifying.

“The business was launched with one goal in mind – a service that goes above and beyond.”

It is in Church Street next to Lula Ella BridesIt is in Church Street next to Lula Ella Brides

The idea is to create a one stop shop for brides and groomsThe idea is to create a one stop shop for brides and grooms

 

Blackpool smoking ban considered but other measures more likely

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While the number of smokers in Blackpool has decreased, the level is still above the national average.

A busy Blackpool promenade

A busy Blackpool promenade

Blackpool Council has no immediate plans to follow other local authorities in banning smoking in pavement pubs and eateries – but the resort’s health chief says he will looks at steps being taken elsewhere to control tobacco use.

Five councils including the City of Manchester have so far banned smoking on stretches of pavement where there are licences in place for outdoor drinking and eating, while Oxfordshire is also considering the move.

Blackpool Council led the way in 2012 when it introduced a no smoking policy in children’s playgrounds.

Dr Arif Rajpura, the council’s director of public health, said: “We recognise how harmful to health smoking is.

“Over the years we have adopted a number of initiatives and introduced measures to encourage smokers to give up for health reasons including the designation of some areas of Blackpool as smoke-free zones.

“The council will continue work to with our community to try to reduce the numbers of people who smoke and avoid the harm to others via passive smoking.

“We are keen to assess and review ideas and policy proposals from national government and other organisations that might help as part of our wider Blackpool tobacco control strategy.

“All information and learning would, of course, need to be considered and evaluated by the council before implementation.”

This is regulated in line with national guidance.

In 2012 the council designated 13 playgrounds as smoke free as part of health protection measures agreed with the NHS, with signs installed warning people the move was necessary to protect children.

While the number of smokers in Blackpool has decreased in recent years, the level is still above the national average.

Public Health England figures for 2018 showed 21 per cent of adults in Blackpool smoke, which was down from 28 per cent in 2011, but above the national average of just over 14 per cent.