No Christmas cheer at butchers forced to close for festive season

No Christmas cheer at butchers forced to close for festive season

Tunbridge Wells customers will not be able to buy their Christmas turkeys from J C Rook and sons this year, commonly known as just ‘Rooks’, at its Mount Pleasant Road branch as it has been forced to close ‘temporarily’.

The company says they have had to shut over Christmas because they have been unable to find a qualified manager to run the Tunbridge Wells shop, between the Opera House and WHSmith.

In a statement on their website, the Kent meat chain, which also has branches in Sittingbourne, Maidstone, Folkestone and elsewhere in the county, said: “We have been unable to find a suitable manager to run the store for a number of months now so unfortunately we have had to close the store for the next couple of months.

“The directors feel that customers would not have been looked after as we would expect, particularly over the coming festive period, and would also appreciate that the company has a duty of care towards their staff and therefore must ensure that there is an appropriately qualified person who is responsible for the shop in order to safeguard our staff and customers.

“We hope to be open again in the New Year with a new and improved store and we look forward to serving the people of Tunbridge Wells once again.”

They added that while the shop is closed, customers can still order meat via their website.

But National Craft Butchers [formerly the National Federation of Meat Traders], the association that represents 1,000 of the UK’s 6,000 independent butcher shops, and which is based in Tunbridge Wells, says skills shortages in the industry are a major issue.

“It is a national problem,” said Richard Stevenson, Technical Manager at the trading body. “A lot of businesses in our sector find it difficult to get good staff.”

He said that while Rooks was not one of their members, many local butchers are family-run affairs, but for those that are not, managers in particular are hard to find.

“Managers have to be very highly qualified, so I am not surprised that Rooks has found it difficult. I suppose butchery is not seen as very sexy and it is not necessarily well paid, but things are improving.

“There has been a huge surge in the number of apprenticeships lately, so things are on the up for the sector, but I don’t suppose that will help with the problems for those that are suffering at the moment.”

Rooks is not the only local butchers to have closed recently.

White’s of Tonbridge, which has been serving customers on Martin Hardie Way for nearly two decades, shut its doors earlier this year before announcing on their Facebook page this month that they would not be reopening ‘due to illness’.

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