Blow for Leicester pubs as local lockdown halts reopenings

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Reopening halted: the Old Horse is one of the pubs in Leicester that will not be opening next month
Reopening halted: the Old Horse is one of the pubs in Leicester that will not be opening next month

Related tags Leicester Coronavirus

Pubs in Leicester will have to wait at least another two weeks before reopening after the Government ordered the city to tackle a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday 29 June), health secretary Matt Hancock said pubs in the city would not be permitted to reopen from Saturday 4 July like the rest of England. 

This will affect 182 pubs in the lockdown zone, according to the Altus Group.

The city is also taking strict measures such as closing schools and non-essential shops in the first ‘local lockdown’ after its council reported 944 positive tests in the two weeks to 23 June.

Hancock said the new measures would be in place for at least a fortnight but would be kept under constant review to avoid any unnecessary delays in reopening the city.

For pubs that were gearing up to reopen from 4 July this will be a huge blow, with operators having already ordered stock and taken staff off furlough in anticipation of resuming trade. 

Safety priority 

A spokesperson for Everards - which has more than 175 pubs across the East Midlands including central Leicester - said its sites would reopen on case-by-case bases. 

They said: “Our priority continues to be the health, safety and welfare of employees, Everards business owners and their staff and communities. 

“Therefore we fully understand this move and will continue to support our business owners who have now been told they are unable to open as planned. 

“All Everards pubs are run by independent business owners. Therefore they are all busy planning how and when is the right time for their individual pub to safely welcome back customers and they will continue to be informed by the latest government guidelines.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the Government issue urgent clarification on the geographical radius of the lockdown.

She added: “Many of the Pubs in Leicester will have been getting ready to reopen from Saturday. With the news of a local Lockdown they now are having to push back those plans whilst getting close to the edge on surviving this crisis. It is a great shame after the investment they would have put into preparations for reopening. 

“The situation in Leicester will be of huge concern to pubs across the country and we need the Government to explain exactly what the conditions are for these local lockdowns and how their powers apply.”

A spokesperson for Star Pubs & Bars added: "Clearly the health and safety of communities up and down the UK is the priority. We will work with all stakeholders to help our pubs adhere to the latest national and local guidelines."

Other national pub companies, including Greene King, JD Wetherspoon and Marston’s, will halt reopening sites in the area.

Further costs

However, not all operators in the city were preparing for a reopening. Kieran Lyons of the Blue Boar micro-pub said even before news broke of the surge in cases he was in no rush to set a reopening date.

He told The Morning Advertiser (MA)​: “We wanted to see how it works for other pubs and how the big boys get on. We’re tiny so will struggle even at one-metre.

“It is a further cost and further delay [but] we are doing a delivery and takeaway service so keeping busy. 

“The feedback from our customers since we have said we are waiting and not opening early has been very positive. They have all said that's probably the right thing to do. There's nobody banging down the door to try and get back in the pub. Even if we did open, we don't know if anyone would come and what it would be like."

Critics of the local lockdown approach have questioned what would stop residents of places with strict measures from visiting neighbouring areas where restrictions had been eased.

In response, Hancock said: “We’re recommending against all but essential travel both to and from and within Leicester, and as we saw during the peak, the vast majority of people will abide by these rules.

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