Sheffield businesswoman Kate Ibok of SisiMi Restaurant claims she was denied a Covid grant because she is black

A Sheffield businesswoman claims she was turned down for a Covid hospitality grant because she is black.

Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 1:53 pm

Kate Ibok believes she qualifies for up to £4,000 funding for Sisi Mi Afro-Caribbean Restaurant and race has played a part in the decision.

Ms Ibok has run the premises on Andrew Lane, on the Wicker, for a year with help from volunteers at a local church, and says business is ‘good’.

But the restaurant, which was hit by Covid shutdowns, is making a loss and faces closure, she says.

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Kate Ibok missed was refused an Omicron hospitality grant. Picture Scott Merrylees

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She insists she supplied evidence of paying separate rent for the property from her other business, Sisi Mi Foods, which has an address on nearby Scholey Street.

But Sheffield City Council, which administers the grants, concluded the lease covers the supermarket and restaurant under a single payment which is paid by SiSi Mi Foods only. That meant she was ineligible.

Ms Ibok said: “I have a receipt which shows the restaurant does pay rent to a limited company. But they are saying it is not entitled to a grant - so who is?

“I’m not getting any support whatever from the council. I’m saying I’m a black business woman and I’m doing this alone, how do I get support to make this the best place and employ people? There’s a lot of potential in this building and I want to stay open to serve the community.

“Looking across the city I’m not seeing anything being done for black business women. I don’t want to stay in the shadow of a man but because I’m from a minority I don’t have a voice speaking out for me and others in my situation. I see it as racist.”

An email from Business Sheffield states: “The lease that has been provided appears to cover both the supermarket and restaurant under a single payment which is paid by SiSi Mi Foods and not the restaurant.”

Di Buckley, director of economic development, said Ms Ibok did not provide ’satisfactory evidence’ to qualify for a grant. She did not address claims of racial discrimination.

She said: “Many businesses across Sheffield have struggled with the effects of Covid-19 but in order to run a fair and transparent scheme we have to stick with criteria and apply it equally to each and every application."

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