After 23 years this Edinburgh restaurant owner is looking for help, but she is not getting it

Threshold means she doesn’t qualify for grant
Virginie Brouard has been running her restaurant since 1996Virginie Brouard has been running her restaurant since 1996
Virginie Brouard has been running her restaurant since 1996

VIRGINIE Brouard came to Edinburgh from France when she was 19 and worked for five years at Pierre Victoire before opening La P’tite Folie in 1996, first in Frederick Street and now Randolph Place.

But the threshold for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund means she does not qualify for the £25,000 payment.

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“My question is why the rateable value has to be set at £51,000,” she says.

She shut down the restaurant on March 17, a week ahead of lockdown, managed to pay her 26 staff for that month, paid all her suppliers and took out a £30,000 loan from the bank to try to cover her bills.

But she is dismayed at the situation she now finds herself in.

“I’ve been a good taxpayer for 23 years. I’ve never used the system. For once I need help, but I’m not getting it.

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“Edinburgh property is not cheap so it’s very easy to have a rateable value over £51,000. A lot of us are above that. I think the government will have to do something. If you help one, you should help everybody.”

All the staff are now on furlough. Virginie praises the government for acting quickly and introducing a generous scheme.

But she says expecting employers to contribute to the costs is just not realistic.

“I can’t contribute. I have no income. Where am I supposed to find the money? We would have to make everyone redundant.”

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Staff are already texting her, asking for as many hours as possible when the business reopens.

But she says she will have to consider whether she can afford to reopen with strict social distancing rules in force. “If we have to reopen at 30 per cent capacity, is it worth opening?

“I’ve really built up the business. Now we just go week by week. I’m going to try to not get rid of anybody.”