Losing a Business Amid Pandemic

From Raj Paul Ghusar and Ilka Dorothea Schnelle

Many industries have been adversely impacted throughout this year by the COVID-19 pandemic but the sector that felt it first was the service and hospitality industries.

Now, in the 7th month of COVID-19 restrictions and in between re-opening phases businesses are beginning to realize the short and long-term effects of the pandemic, businessmen such as Nikolas Hall, the former owner of the Bertrams Hotel located in the Vesterbro neighborhood in Denmark.

At first glance, the hotel appears as if it could be any other boutique shop on Vesterbrogade but upon entering there is a clear sense of hand-picked aesthetics throughout the lobby and common areas of the property.  Walking through the hotel there are many tastefully placed and decorated sitting areas, a large dining area, and a patio.  The reminiscences of a once-bustling hotel and curated lounge areas for guests still linger.

“My better half and myself put a lot of work into this place,” said Hall explaining the history and inspiration for the hotel.

Hall has been residing in Copenhagen for the last 30 years working in the hospitality industry starting from the low end of the totem pole working night shifts and climbed his way up into owning a boutique hotel. 

Prior to the pandemic, the hotelier enjoyed a decade of prosperity after acquiring the Bertrams hotel, but earlier this year had to declare bankruptcy and now operates the business on behalf of the landlord.

“The Danish government has been quite liberal with regards to the assistance they provided businesses,” said Hall but it still was not enough to help him keep his business. 

 The government assisted business 80 percent of expected fixed costs and if a business was completely restricted from being open they could see up to 100 percent of fixed costs, according to the Danish Business Authority.  For Hall, he never had to completely shut down so he did receive assistance but he had to come up with the last 20 percent to pay employees and other running expenditures.  Unfortunately, as generous as the help was, it was not enough to help Hall to continue to own his business.

Although Denmark had been doing quite well compared to other countries on the coronavirus front, the hotel industry relies heavily on foreign travelers and peak travel seasons for most of its revenue.  Hall said that he has experienced a few travelers from different countries in Europe in recent months but there is virtually no domestic business.

The impact that the lack of tourism has had on Denmark has been substantial. 88 percent of businesses reported revenue loss since April 14, 2020, according to Statista Research Department. These numbers were reported just two months after the first recorded COVID-19 cases in Denmark.  With many visitor restrictions still in place throughout the peak travel season, business owners like Hall are trying to do everything they can to stay afloat. 

All of the events that took place in the last 7 month has caused Hall to be less optimistic about the future of their business but even though the hotelier and his wife had their years of hard work undercut by the pandemic they will take it one day at a time and hope for the best possible outcome.  They have no plans of re-acquiring the hotel but will work in the business they love for as long as possible.

The Danish Police Department reported this month that “The situation in the greater Copenhagen area and the municipality of Odense remains a cause for concern due to several outbreaks and an increase in the number of infected people.” As restrictions continue to fluctuate, the state of the hospitality industry hangs in limbo.