“We’re all waiting for tonight, that’s the big question,” Lancaster landlord Tim Tomlinson has told The Morning Advertiser. “The big impact so far is on how do we pay our staff because the other bits of help don’t solve the problems long term.”
Tomlinson, who owns three pubs in the area, has managed to keep his sites open, but has felt a significant drop off in trade, leaving him with less than enough money to support his usually 80-strong team.
Maintaining staff has been a major problem across the trade, with Tomlinson saying it is the last issue the industry needs to gain support on, having received several other support packages.
“The staffing cost is a big one,” he said. “You can stop paying bills and suppliers because you can change what you use and run your stocks down.”
Sales have dropped
He continues: “But our sales have dropped by 75%, so the reality is it’s [coronavirus] slowing down your cash flow.
“Not many people are sitting on lots of cash, but if you are not making money you burn out your savings very quickly.
“And there’s no cash for starting back up again when this is all over, we’re desperate for what the Chancellor will have to say on wages tonight.”
The licensee said he expects the country will eventually go into lockdown sooner or later, with all but essential businesses being allowed to remain open.
Until then, many pubs, including Tomlinson’s, have remained open with some tweaks made to ensure social distancing has been in place.
Tables and chairs had been taken away to give customers more space and there had also been a ban on standing at the bar and in the pub to ensure maximum distance between people.
Questioning his motives
But Tomlinson had received calls from people questioning his motives for remaining open, with some criticism that he and the trade were being irresponsible.
“I’ve had a few people phoning saying we shouldn’t be open and that we’re being irresponsible, but what are you supposed to do when the Government hasn’t closed us and you have staff to pay?
“If you go to a shop or a café, there are loads of people in them and not much space, we have taken tables out and banned standing at places like the bar to make sure there is enough space for people to feel comfortable.”
Now, though, Tomlinson and the industry is waiting in hope for assistance from the Government so staff can be paid and their businesses’ futures will remain in tact.
“[The crisis] isn’t just us, it’s the whole country. It can’t go unemployed. We like that there’s been some help, but the wages thing, if that’s coming out that will, hopefully, give security for the next six to 12 weeks.”