After the riots: looted traders struggle to cope as recession hits Lewisham rebuilding efforts

Lewisham riots

Pic: Stuart Bannocks

Lewisham’s part in the riots this August is sometimes overlooked beside the chaos that seized Croydon and Tottenham. But local businesses in Lewisham were deeply affected by the events of August 6 to 9. From chain stories like Argos to local off-licences, the impact is still being felt.

One area seriously affected is Manor Park Parade, where MP Heidi Alexander’s office was attacked. Justin Eronimus, acting Manager of Costless Wines on Manor Park Parade, said: “When we took over the shop, it wasn’t doing well. But now we’re financially squeezed and there’s been a drop in customers.”

Costless Wines and other shops in the area, including a hairdressers and pub, were attacked by several rioters during the disturbances. From alcohol to cigarettes, the off-licence was looted and Eronimus, 41, said they took the till, a mobile phone and its landline phone.

“The entire counter unit was damaged and the ice cream freezer.” Costless Wines had to close the shop for three days: “There was literally nothing in the shop,” he said.

The damage came to over £7,500 and due to a change in management prior to the riots, the shop had no insurance. “We’ve applied for the High Street Fund but haven’t received any correspondence [yet].”

The High Street Fund was set up to help small businesses affected by the riots across the country. The charitable fund came after London councils and a group of businesses came together to provide financial support to these companies.

Selban Rasanayagam, 42, was attacked during the riots. The Costless Wines shop assistant was closing when the attack took place and received several cuts and bruises, which resulted in him having to go to hospital that night.

He said: “I’m scared. This is the first time in 15 years it has happened. My neck still hurts.” Rasanayagam added that he did not know whether police had caught his attackers.

Another business affected by the riots was Mino’s Hairdressing on Manor Park Parade. Owner Mino Viscido, 57, spoke of the local reaction: “People offered support, it was just so nice to see people pulling together.”

He added that a couple living opposite provided the support. Business, he said, has “pretty much” returned to normal.

Viscido said the reduced business rates that had been provided were “helpful.” Luckily for Mino, his shop was closed when the riots happened, but the shop windows were broken. He had insurance: “Once I got the invoices I paid for, they reimbursed me.”

Local pub Dirty South, also on Manor Park Parade, is suffering more than most and is still only open twice a week: Manager Ed Butterfield, 20, said: “We’re struggling at the minute obviously, because no one thinks we’re open purely because of the riots. But we’re building it back up to what it used to be.”

In contrast to shops nearby, the pub suffered over £20,000 worth of damage, as all the windows were smashed, alcohol was stolen and fruit machines were looted. One rioter was caught after going to hospital for damage to an artery in his leg from a shard of glass.

Over in Deptford Market, one shopkeeper, who refused to give his name, said that many people have taken a negative view of the area because of the riots.

“People who used to come from outside the area are scared to come,” he said. “They see Deptford as a rough area. It’s not been busy [here] since the riots.”

Most businesses affected in Deptford were betting shops and, for some traders and shopkeepers, business was “not really” affected by the riots. One added the cause for decline in trade was the economic downturn, including the Eurozone crisis.

Of 3000 Operation Withern arrests, 225 are connected to Lewisham. Police statistics show 68 of these related to criminal damage, while 65 were related to burglary offences.

Lewisham police said they are still looking for those involved and is working with the community to make sure this sort of disorder does not happen again.

But for businesses in Lewisham, it appears the greater issue is the decline in sales and financial impact. One shopkeeper in Deptford said: “It’s gone completely quiet. What we take now is not even three quarters of what we used to take. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”


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