Small businesses operating in and around Grenfell Tower in West London are at risk of closure and bankruptcy, a local business group has warned.
The devastating tower block fire killed 71 people and left hundreds homeless back in June 2017.
The Portobello Business Centre estimates that, in the nine months since, some companies in the immediate vicinity of the tower have lost up to 70% of trade, mainly due to a reduction in footfall.
Allen Pluck, chief executive of the Portobello Business Centre, told Sky News, “We have now unfortunately nine months on bailiffs turning up for collection of debt and business closure.
“If I’m being brutal here, the last thing this community needs is the loss of its business community, because it then just makes it even more difficult for the community to stand up and get back on its feet.”
The Garden Bar is a pub situated a few hundred metres from the tower. On the night of the fire, emergency services commandeered it as a place for them to rest, recharge and bring survivors. The charred remains of Grenfell Tower are still visible from its main window.
“It’s been a struggle since reopening,” Bardi Berisha, the bar’s general manager told Sky News, “We’ve had a lot of cancellations. You can’t blame them, no one wanted to come and have a drink or celebrate.”
Work has begun to cover up the tower, which Mr Berisha hope will encourage more customers to come back to the area and back to his bar.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see the tower in this condition,” he said, “It brings back a lot of bad memories of what happened before.”
The Government and local London authorities have already provided financial compensation to local residents including businesses.
This week, the London Mayor’s office pledged a further £65,000 specifically for small businesses.
But in addition, the Portobello Business Centre would like to see a moratorium on bank loans and utility bills for the companies that have been worst affected.
One local business owner, who did not want to be named, told Sky News that as the police investigation into the fire had not yet concluded, he had been unable to claim for loss of earnings from his insurance company.
He estimated he’d lost more than £50,000 of business, as the roads around his garage has been closed leading many customers to believe he was shut.
“It’s taken a toll,” he said, “It’s been tough. But we just have to try and stay positive.”