Opinion

Time for the local to shine – but those still closed need extra support

By Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester

- Last updated on GMT

Love the local: Sacha Lord (R) and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham have been actively encouraging the city-region's public to think about helping their closest operators
Love the local: Sacha Lord (R) and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham have been actively encouraging the city-region's public to think about helping their closest operators

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage, Public house, Beer, Restaurant, Coronavirus

Tomorrow (4 July) is the day we have all been waiting for and while there is a quiet confidence in the air, I’m well aware of the nervousness across the sector.

None of us have ever been through anything like this. Hospitality owners and staff will never have worked in these conditions and the difficulty of trying to ensure customers stick to social distancing measures will be tricky to say the least. But I wish every operator who is reopening luck and for those hoping to reopen soon, we will continue to support you however we can. 

The past three months have shown the sector’s unity and strength in getting through this crisis together and I hope we can all repeat this proudly over the weekend. 

I’m hopeful we will be able to reopen without any trouble, however we have put measures in place across Greater Manchester to help keep operators and customers as safe as possible. 

We will have an increased police presence in preparation for any disturbance and to help remind the public about social distancing and have applied a greater number of tram services across the transport network to help partygoers get home safely. 

Time for independents to shine

However, despite preparing for a busy city centre, I am personally expecting the majority of the public to stay local – something I have heard repeated across most regions – especially in the first month where there may be some apprehension.

It’s these local independent pubs and bars who are the ones which have been hit the hardest throughout the crisis and will continue to struggle over the next few months while they rebuild. 

Together with Mayor Andy Burnham, I have been actively encouraging the public in Greater Manchester to think about helping their closest operators as much as possible. This could be a time for the independents to shine and build loyalty in customers who may have always chosen the city lights over their local taverns.

Yet we must remember that although we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, this pandemic is not over.

The R-rate is still high in parts of the country and so we must all work together to bring this down and adhere to the guidelines. The more people travel and interact, the more chance they have of spreading or contracting the virus, so it's imperative operators continue to follow the guidelines as much as possible, especially involving social distancing. 

On that note, one area I am disappointed not to see faster movement on is the licensing regulations for the use of outdoor space. 

In my city-region, we are trying to fast track our procedures to allow venues to benefit, however I am disappointed for the whole UK sector who now have to wait several more weeks to be able to utilise space and increase their capacities. 

The sector has been closed for more than three months and therefore it’s difficult to understand why opportunities such as this have been left so late in the day to arrange. 

We also can't forget that only a small fraction of the sector is reopening this weekend. Many operators have chosen to wait until mid-week or later in the summer to reopen in order to install extra measures to keep customers safe, and very sadly, some have not been able to stay in business through the pandemic. 

We must also remember our friends in Scotland and Wales who have not yet been given the green light, as well as the nightclubs and live music venues who are still unable to open and still desperately need our support. This is something we must lose sight of as we cheer our pubs on this weekend. 

Related topics: UnitedWeStand

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