Published: 09:25, 21 April 2020
| Updated: 14:34, 21 April 2020
A former Apprentice star is leading a group of indoor play area operators who are urging the government for help, as the firms miss out on survival money during what should be their most lucrative period.
In a letter to the government, six businesses in Tonbridge, Aylesford and Maidstone, which together employ more than 300 people, call for "urgent assistance" because they don't qualify for small business grants and bank loans are taking too long to reach them.
Under new rules bought in Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop organisations going bust, businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of more than £15,000 and under £51,000 will receive a cash grant of £25,000.
However, the six firms argue they miss out on this critical aid because their vast warehouses means their rateable value is more than £51,000.
The letter was signed by Adventure Kidz, in Aylesford, Jump-In Tonbridge, Tiny Town Football Cinco, in Aylesford, Clip and Climb Tonbridge and Wear M Out in Maidstone and Tonbridge.
It reads: "We appreciate that the government have put measures in place to assist businesses however, such measures are not enough to allow our businesses to survive.
"We are small businesses that are at the heart of communities. We have lost all of our trade due to the lockdown as we all rely on footfall for any kind of income.
"Furthermore, we have lost all bookings for parties and private hires."
The companies are waiting to hear back from banks regarding the new business interruption loan. The firms also pay "huge overheads" for utilities and are on fixed term contracts with water, electricity and gas companies.
But, the utility companies are not allowing for payment deferrals, adding to their financial woes.
Writing before furlough applications opened for businesses yesterday, the companies said they do not have the "cash flow" to pay employees first and then get reimbursed by the government.
The letter finished: "We urge you to review the above and liaise with the appropriate departments in government so that assistance is provided urgently before more businesses like ours will have to close our doors for good."
'We can't let it fail. When we opened ten years ago we put everything on the line...'
Felipe Alviar-Baquero, who faced Lord Alan Sugar's wrath in 2014, is the owner of Tiny Town and said the lockdown restrictions could be a "catastrophe" for indoor play areas.
Rather than let his business go under, he will use his own personal wealth to keep afloat. All his staff are currently on furlough.
Mr Alviar-Baquero said: "We can't let it fail. When we opened ten years ago we put everything on the line. It's a family business. We will put in everything we have to make sure it survives."
As to what advice the fearsome business mogul would give, Mr Alviar-Baquero saidsaid: "Just keep going. The only reason people go into business is because they love what they do. If they aren't prepared to get on with difficult times they should not get into business."