THE owner of a wedding venue has expressed her dismay at Covid-19 rules which render much of the wedding industry unviable.

Mandy Baker-Bird, who runs Yorkshire Wedding Barns at Gilling West, near Richmond, said she has been struggling to keep her staff on and business afloat due to the strict rules around having no more than 15 guests at a wedding.

Despite attempting to keep the business going by launching a pop-up restaurant at her barn, which holds a capacity of 250 people so easily allows for social distancing, she has been landed with a potential £10,000 fine for allowing 55 people to attend a meal in celebration of a wedding held earlier in the year.

She said: “I just want to get the message across, on behalf of the entire wedding industry, that the support we have had is not adequate to save the industry.

“It is not just us, and not just venues – florists, caterers, musicians, photographers and make-up artists, to name a few, are all struggling and I know of some local firms that have gone out of business.

“We have received a grant and used the furlough scheme, but it is a drop in the ocean when you think we’ve not been able to operate for the last six months, and face the prospect of not being able to hold weddings for the next six months.

“Other countries around the world are holding weddings with numbers based on a percentage of the capacity of the venue – so large venues can hold larger weddings in a socially-distanced way.

The Northern Echo:  Yorkshire Wedding Barns at Gilling West, near Richmond Picture by Sarah Caldecott Yorkshire Wedding Barns at Gilling West, near Richmond Picture by Sarah Caldecott

“We could easily hold larger weddings because our barn can hold 250.

“The wedding industry is worth £14 billion to the UK economy so I think it is staggering that the Government feel they can just toss it aside and not give us a lifeline.

“They won’t even discuss with us a strategy to increase capacity. If they are going to lock us down then do it and pay us. If not let us earn some money - how can any wedding business make a profit on 15 people?”

Ms Baker-Bird said that as well as not having revenue coming in, she has had to give out refunds running into tens of thousands of pounds as couples cancel their weddings.

She said: “We’d be better off being shut down and being able to access other grants.

“We have started a pop-up restaurant, but although it keeps our staff busy, it does not make much money because we are new and not very busy.

“We just want to go back to being a wedding venue, and we want to make people aware of the difficulties the industry is in. The Government just doesn’t seem to care.”

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “On Saturday, October 10, police received a number of reports about a wedding at a venue in Gilling West, Richmondshire, where more than 60 guests were in attendance.

“The maximum allowable under the coronavirus regulations is 15.

“Officers dispersed the wedding guests peacefully, many of whom were from areas currently under stricter, local regulations.

“The owner of the venue was cautioned and will be reported for breaching the coronavirus regulations in relation to weddings.”

A spokesman for Rishi Sunak MP said Mr Sunak has provided assistance to Ms Baker-Bird, and said she has accessed support running into tens of thousands of pounds, including a grant, a government-backed loan and has used the furlough scheme for her staff.