5 interviews. How lockdown has hit businesses in Rome

How has the lockdown hit small businesses in Rome and what help would they like to see. We've talked to several entrepreneurs about their worries and their hopes for the future.

by Marco Venturini

La Rosetta

Massimo Riccioli is the owner of La Rosetta restaurant just near the Pantheon. He says that he feels very responsible for his employees and plans to open as soon as it is permitted. He believes that this is a time for reflection and that everything will change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On the positive side he is grateful that his children managed to get home and that they have all had time to be together. 

Before the pandemic he had already started a take-away service from his restaurant. He also wants to develop his own delivery service, independent of the large online platforms. La Rosetta is famous for its oysters and fish menus and he now has plans for a new menu based on inexpensive but good quality fish at affordable prices. As Riccioli says: "In order to be ahead of the game one has to change."

La Rosetta, Via della Rosetta 8, www.larosetta.com

Shamrock Irish Pub

Alessandro Corbellini (in the centre) who is part owner of the popular Shamrock Irish Pub in Monti has been working there for the last 15 years. He says that the pub only began to notice a gradual fall in the number of customers just a few days before the lockdown and then along with everyone else they had to close.

After the health crisis Corbellini is worried about the economic aspects of the pandemic. He hopes that there will be help in the form of fewer taxes and that energy and gas prices will drop.

When asked what he would like the government and local authorities to do he said that he hopes for a more equal distribution of income.

"A manager, a boss, cannot earn 20/30 times more than a worker. That is unfair and only creates social unease. As soon as this emergency ends I hope people open their hearts more, also because if you give more purchasing power to the people, it should be a benefit for all."

His advice for the future is that people should be kinder and happier and although he doesn't want the emergency to last he hopes it will have given people a new sense of sharing.

Shamrock Irish Pub, Via del Colosseo 1/c, www.shamrockpubroma.it

404 

Francesco Pocchi is one of the partners of 404, an integrated digital communication agency, specialising in the promotion of products dedicated to entertainment: films, TV series, video games, art exhibitions. It offers digital PR, social media marketing, graphics and programming services. The agency was founded in Rome in 2009 and has been operating consistently since then

Pocchi says that he first noticed a decrease in business during the initial restrictive measures in the northern regions in early March. The decrease then became a total stall, as measures were extended to the whole of Italy. The whole industry is now frozen.

“As the market has dried up completely”, he says, “many medium-sized or small agencies are facing an epic crisis due to their continuing expenses (wages, utilities, rent), but without being able to invoice and generate income in any way. At the moment we are just trying to understand when cinemas will reopened.”

When asked what he would expect from the national government and local authorities, he replied that what he would like to see is a safety net for all companies such as 404 that are selling services. They need help with the monthly costs during a period when there is no income. This would involve cutting the costs of the workforce, and not just the social security costs, but also a fiscal policy that would produce enough liquidity to carry them over the months of quarantine.

As to the future Pocchi feels that there will be a rebound after the lockdown. He says: “Entertainment like tourism, is an emotional market, and has a capacity for fast growth because it doesn't involve a lengthy process of industrial production. But this crisis will leave many jobs on the ground at the expense of professionalism.”

The government, he says, will have to deal with all this because it will take a long time to absorb the effects of this crisis.

QuattroZeroQuattro, www.404.it

Chris The Guide 

Christiann Santini was a freelance tour guide and tour operator for about 10 years, but he changed his job just a couple of months before the covid-19 pandemic hit Italy. He went to work for a religious institution as an operations manager and although he was pleased to have changed his job just in time he found that he had enormous new responsibilities and says that handling the crisis has been very complicated. 

"Our institute hosts lay students studying at some of Rome's pontifical universities so obviously when lessons were cancelled half of the students left to travel home. But some are still with us because our community is home for them and also because travelling was dangerous or impossible due to the new restrictions. At the moment we are all working from home but I don't really know for how long this will work for us."

He said that the institute will only really be able to tell how badly it has been affected by the crisis when it opens registration for the next academic year 2020-2021.

When asked what he would like the government and local authorities to do to help

he replied that first of all he would hope that the government would do everything possible to fight the virus.

"Only serious and strict restrictions will help to defeat the disease and allow us to start working again safely," he said. he also recognised the economic crisis and hopes that the government will give as much help as possible to help companies survive.

Looking to the future he hopes that it will bring a new beginning based on more ethical and economic foundations. Christheguide

Bukowski Bar 

Alessandro Mattei opened the Bukowski bar, which is also a gallery and bistro, in Borgo Pio in 2013. He noticed that there were fewer customers about two weeks before the lockdown on 10 March . At first, he said, neither he nor his clients understood the real danger of the situation. He then closed voluntarily until 9 June, just a few days before the official lockdown. He thinks that the government and the local authorities should do everything possible to help but realises that the situation is very complicated. He hopes that there will be assistance for small businesses, which have rents and salaries to pay.

As to the future he says: "Things will get better but the question is when. I think it will take plenty of time, at least six months."

Bukowski Bar, Via degli Ombrellari 25. Facebook page