Coronavirus business update: Latest news across the North West

The co-founder of Liverpool-based Bongo’s Bingo, Joshua Burke, is launching a new venture next month, an app which is set to revolutionise how the nation goes back to bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs across the country this Summer.

With co-founders Carl Whiteside and Lewis Allbones, the trio have been working on their project for three years, identifying several crucial ways to improve how customers engage with the vast and varied hospitality industry across the country.

They also welcome David Gallimore to the team, who has helped to create large-scale marketing-tech platforms for many of the UK’s leading hospitality companies, SMEs and independents.

Glug is an innovative free app to order food and drink in advance, connect users with venues and plan social time with friends and family.

Benefits of the launch version of the app include:

● Full menus to order from through mobile devices, computers and tablets
● Reduces queues with quicker and more efficient service
● Maintains safe social distancing measures – for example, minimising the time spent waiting for staff to serve your table
● No cards or cash – everything is ordered and paid for through the app, with less contact
● Helps brands communicate directly with customers

Later versions of Glug will include more features.

Using Glug for a table order

Glug will bring everything into one place with thousands of venues listed. Josh said it works for every kind of hospitality business, from the smallest countryside pub to the biggest nightclub or high-end eaterie, to independent cafes, delis, intimate bars, bakeries and high street chains.

As social distancing is gradually relaxed, in the coming weeks the hospitality industry will open its doors again and face new challenges in the new COVID-19 normal. Glug will help many businesses adapt successfully to these unprecedented changes.

Several high-profile investors are already poised to join the Glug revolution and it heralds a major new opportunity for investment as the country comes out of lockdown.

Josh said: “We have raised £250,000 of investment already. We are launching Glug to support the hospitality industry as bars, restaurants and pubs across the UK reopen.

“We work with many of them through Bongo’s Bingo and the wider hospitality circles we are all part of. And with David on board, we have got his many years of vital experience in this area, too.

“Glug is something we all passionately believe in. We have seen what kind of works and what doesn’t, and believe Glug will be the definitive way forward. It will help businesses and their customers by linking them together, with the free app’s users able to engage in a whole host of innovative functions.”

Glug is set to launch on July 1.


Rob Illidge

Manchester chief executive Rob Illidge is gearing up to lead a virtual Kilimanjaro climb to raise money for the NHS from June 9-16.

Rob, of social media agency Social Republic, will be joined by Kilimanjaro Experts founder Henry Steadman and hundreds of online users including expert climbers and keen walkers to complete the virtual trek, having had his physical climb delayed due to COVID-19.

The team’s activity will be posted across Facebook and Instagram – with daily updates and Facebook ‘live’ between Rob and Henry to discuss the day’s walk, its length, predicted altitude gain, weather and scenery plus a look at what to expect over the course of the next 24 hours.

Rob said: “With my physical climb now delayed due to the coronavirus, I’m aiming to use this virtual expedition to raise money for the brave national health heroes who are doing an amazing job in the current climate – I’m calling for any support you can provide, whether it’s a small donation or by simply joining me for this challenge.

“It is certainly going to be a very tough eight days, walking 128,263 steps in total with a height equivalent of 5895m.

“It’s also going to be extremely challenging to try to recreate the hike in both my own home, through the garden and stairs, and by using the limited exercise we’re allowed to take each day, walking locally to at least experience being out on the trek.”

Henry said: “We are delighted that Rob is continuing his fundraising efforts during the current pandemic – just showing how driven he is to helping an excellent cause.

“Every morning for the virtual climb I’ll be featuring a short video with a description of the relevant day’s itinerary on our alternative Lemosho Route trek – looking at the key facts for the day and calling on extra support to encourage Rob and his team to complete this great task.”


Skelmersdale-based social enterprise The Sewing Rooms has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by pivoting from its usual commercial market to producing a line of facemasks for the general public.

This has enabled them to bring staff back from furlough and help protect the local community, with the help of an £8,000 grant from Livv Investment, part of the Livv Housing Group.

The Sewing Rooms aims to bring about change through trade, providing workshops and sewing and manufacturing services to private and corporate clients, reinvesting the money they make into the communities around Skelmersdale.

Through initiatives designed to upskill, improve wellbeing and reduce isolation – supported by investment from Livv Investment – The Sewing Rooms works with a range of local groups, including those often marginalised such as ex-offenders, people who have experienced domestic violence and those with mental health challenges.

Paula Gamester, centre

But a fall in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown meant that some staff needed to be furloughed, so co-founder Paula Gamester and her team are creating a production line of facemasks for the general public so she can bring back her staff.

These non-surgical masks are made with certified virus-resistant Panaz Shield Plus Technology, meaning they can be worn and washed many times.

The Sewing Rooms has capacity to create 10,000 of these masks, helping to protect the community without using surgical masks that are still needed for NHS and care staff.

Paula Gamester said: “In February we were making curtains, bedding and soft furnishing for hotel chains and residential settings, but all of that dried up with the pandemic.”

She said the team has been making the face masks for food banks, taxi drivers and care homes that couldn’t get their hands on PPE: “We’ve managed to source material that’s anti-microbial, which is effective against COVID-19, as well as being washable and re-useable.”

She added: “I’ve been able to bring all the team back with the support of Livv Investment and the grant they have given us, and we’ve had support from the Community Foundation and the National Lottery and have set up a Crowdfunder page and sell these masks. We’ve had orders from national charities and it’s really ramping up.”

Léann Hearne, group chief executive at Livv Housing Group, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the community work done by The Sewing Rooms and the social impact our past investments have helped them to make.”


Jane Parry

PM+M, the Blackburn and Bury-based chartered accountancy, business advisory and wealth management group, is launching a free virtual consultancy service that will help businesses and individuals access expert advice on funding, research and development and wealth management issues.

Over the past few months thousands of North West businesses have taken advantage of the Government’s support schemes, via bounce back loans, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or the deferral of VAT, PAYE, NIC or rent payments, to see them through the coronavirus shutdown.

These initiatives have been vital in helping organisations manage cash flow challenges, but it is essential that firms use them in the right way for maximum benefit. They also need to be aware about when liabilities will become payable.

So, PM+M’s funding and R&D experts are launching this new one-to-one consultation service which can be booked in advance and conducted over Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or any other mutually available platform.

Jane Parry, managing partner, said: “We want this new virtual service to provide practical advice and guidance which will add value and help kick-start the recovery in the region.”

PM+M’s has also recently launched its Coronavirus Support Hub. It includes the latest advice from the UK Government in relation to the direct financial support businesses can access as well as news and guidance on issues such as VAT and commercial rent deferrals, tax filing extensions and the key issues affecting self-employed workers.