IT has been nearly six months since Sofie Gillespie made her last espresso for her early morning office workers who make a stop off at her city centre café.

Ms Gillespie, like many business owners, had to face the heartbreak of closing her doors in lockdown after building up her Where the Monkey Sleeps brand where she has been at the helm for the past eight years.

With First Minister Nicola Sturgeon postponing the planned date to allow non-essential office staff to return when she gave her three week lockdown review on Thursday, it could be even longer before Ms Gillespie considers reopening her doors in Glasgow.

There had been hope offices could see staff return in mid-September but with coronavirus cases rising again, it wasn't given the go ahead.

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It is this period of uncertainty that means Ms Gillespie sees little point in opening up her Argyle Street premises for some time.

She is now fearful for the future of some independent cafes and hopes the unique mix they bring to our high streets and town centres do not disappear.

Ms Gillespie said: “As long as ‘work from home’ and ‘stay local’ are pillars of government guidance, businesses in Glasgow that rely on the city centre office community face the real threat of closure.

“We have been in direct contact with many of the large city centre employers, including JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Barclays who have all indicated that they will not be returning to the office for the foreseeable future.”

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Ms Gillespie doesn’t think many office staff will return this side of Christmas which would have a further impact on trading.

Ms Gillespie said: “We looked at the options open to us and in our area, where a number of major employers have not reopened their offices, we just didn’t think we would be able to do nearly enough trade to justify reopening.

“We had people on furlough and costs associated with keeping the business closed, but there was also the restart costs to think of as well.

“A few businesses have been operating in the city centre as takeaways and are reporting 15-25 per cent of pre-lockdown sales. These numbers are simply not sustainable.”

Ms Gillespie and a number of city centre-based café owners have banded together and are asking for help.

She added: “We do urge the government to support independent cafes and shops. Failure to do so will result in mass redundancies and closures, with terrible consequences for our city. Nationwide chains will be mainstays on our high street for many years to come and they undoubtedly play a vital role in Glasgow’s economy but if local, independent cafes and shops are forced to close their doors, what will be left to differentiate us from any other urban centre?”

Jules in the heart of the financial district of Glasgow in Argyle Street has been hit hard.

A spokesman for Jules said: “Although many in the hospitality trade are starting to reopen, we are in a position where the offices and businesses around us are not planning to reopen for several months, possibly even next year. While the Government advice is still to work from home and the city centre remains deserted, we are facing a situation that can only mean redundancies and possible closure without further funding.”

Owner of Sprigg in Ingram Street, Tom McDermott took the decision to reopen in May with a delivery service and says he has seen a steady growth in turnover in the past couple of months, but he too has concerns office working restrictions might not be lifted.

"In June we were making 2 per cent of our normal turnover and have built that up to 25 per cent from the shop. Combined larger deliveries, we are probably nearer to 50 per cent for the month. I had hoped we would see continued growth in September. I was quite confident about the outlook at the beginning of the month, but with regional lockdowns I can't see office working getting the go ahead."

Sprigg celebrated its second birthday last month and admit that it has been a challenge to survive through the pandemic.

Mr McDermott added: "We were really only closed for six weeks as we adapted the business in May to run a delivery service before opening up as a shop in June at one point we were only doing six coffees a day. I think we have had sufficient support so far and we have got through this period, but I think it will be a challenge for city centre businesses like ours to get through the other side of winter."

Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Business in Scotland’s policy chair, said they were encouraging people to support their local or favourite cafes at this time.

Mr McRae said: “It makes sense that some city centre and town centre businesses are opening their doors to assess local demand. We’re certain that some of these businesses will succeed despite non-essential offices remaining shut. And we’d encourage people that had a favourite independent café or shop near their workplace to see what they can do to support the business during these extraordinary times.

“But there’s no doubt that it looks like firms dependant on office workers’ spending power will find things difficult for the foreseeable. Even if governmental restrictions on non-essential offices are lifted, many firms – large and small – will not be returning all their staff to their premises. While some home workers might be spending more money with firms near where they live, if offices remain shut then it seems likely that at least some of the local firms in their neighbourhood will permanently close.”