The Government ordered pubs to follow tighter restrictions including face coverings, table service only and a 10pm curfew amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
The Bull Inn in Barton Mills, Suffolk experienced its worst Sunday evening on record.
Operator Cheryl Hickman said: “We have opened on a Sunday night for 13 years and although in winter it’s a quieter night it’s always been worth opening and we have become known as a place that does open Sunday night (so many in our area don’t).
“From 7pm we served only residents [room bookings] plus a table of two! Our pub would usually be full until 8.30pm with diners.”
More than £1,000 would have been lost from trade on Sunday evening, Hickman estimated, in addition to losing a sitting of people who usually come out at around 8pm on the Friday.
Although most of her customers would have gone home before 10pm anyway, the curfew has deterred people from coming out, Hickman said.
“We have taken a hit on extra staff to keep our door secure and know who’s coming in and out,” she added.
Paul Mellor operates the Cube bar and restaurant in Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire and is expecting a 50% drop in sales because of the curfew and guidance for residents to only visit pubs with their household.
He said: “I don’t think the government realises just how critical that extra hour between 10pm and 11pm especially at weekend over 40% of revenues will be lost and mass redundancies and closer could well follow with this ill thought out draconian measure.”
Mellor added that the arbitrary closing time would "throw everyone in my town on the streets, with no social distancing [and] taxi queues. "This is an absolutely ill thought out plan."
Pub company bosses shared their concerns about the impact of Government messaging on consumer confidence last week.
Bath Pub Company
Regional operator Joe Cussens, who runs Bath Pub Company, predicted an indirect impact of the measures from a hit to consumer confidence.
He said: “It’s going to hurt different people in different ways. I suspect it won't be a massive jolt to us in itself, what it might do is make more people generally nervous about going out.”
A snap poll from CGA found two in five (40%) respondents said they would go out less often as a result of the measures.
In the latest Consumer Pulse Survey, a third of adults (34%) said they would be likely to invite friends back to their house after 10pm, and almost that many (30%) said they would seek out alternative locations to continue socialising.
The Morning Advertiser’s readers have been sharing their frustration at the impact of new measures on social media.
Operator Lisa Drew said her wet-only pub had seen a 50% hit on trade since the curfew came into effect last Thursday (24 September).
She said: “Completely unsustainable and having spoken online to other pubs the majority appear to be experiencing similar drops. The curfew needs to be scrapped.”
What’s more, David Squier said the new measures would increase costs by 5% and reduce takings by 10-15% for his wet-led sports pub.
He said on Facebook: “A lot of our trade had shifted more to daytime since July, but Friday/Saturday nights have always been busy periods. Now, Thursday through Saturday we are noticeably slower if not empty. Plus extra staff costs to handle table service during the day.
“The irony is that the government support, and great support from our landlords, had put us in shape to survive. Now I'm not sure we'll make it to spring.”
Operator Michelle Louise Gate said her town centre bar had suffered immensely as most of her trade came after 10pm with a few daytime regulars. Her bar was down 85% on last weekend's takings.
"We have worked so hard to become Covid-secure and completely changed how we previously operated and it has been a success up until this curfew. It’s a joke and is not going to achieve anything. House parties are happening everywhere. It’s a massive kick in the teeth," she commented.
Operators also shared their stories on Twitter.
25-30% down over 5 days. 30% down in one day yesterday. I would guess that might be called an impact.. personally I would call it a dangerous impact. Other premises will be more down. Our sector is in serious trouble— theBLUESTONE ( bluey ) (@blueybarsteward) September 28, 2020
Absolutely, I'm part of a pub owners network and most said it was their worst Friday ever. The masks are hugely putting people off, the 10pm curfew not so much , but it's the overall message that is affecting confidence ,— Up North (@steven_mcnamara) September 28, 2020
We have seen a reduction in footfall and trade last weekend. Customers came prepared with masks and supportive of our compliance of measures, but the early curfew definitely had a negative impact on the city centre— carnivalbrewing (@carnivalbrewing) September 28, 2020
Marsha Ward operates The Taffs Well Inn, Cardiff (pictured) and said local restrictions had meant the number of people visiting her site had “dwindled considerably” in the past week.
However, last weekend was her highest revenue weekend since reopening with dry sales accounting for more sales (34%) than usual.
She said: “This sector impacts on the economy, creates jobs and in the main, complies with the strict regulations placed upon both before the pandemic and since. A few 'bad apples' unfortunately make for better press than the many venues who are working so very hard to keep their customers and staff as safe as possible during challenging times.
“We need the support of our customers now more than ever to survive this and the 'local' is still a place where you can be a part of something (even with social distancing in place).”
Steven Alton, British Institute of InnkeepingCEO added: "After investing huge amounts of time and money in their businesses to make them Covid-secure, our members are once again being unfairly restricted.
"Compounded by the local lockdown rules which have impacted on overnight stays at pubs and other hospitality venues, operators are faced with really difficult decisions on how they can survive going forwards.
"These are successful, sustainable businesses in non-pandemic times, who have done everything they were asked to ensure they were Covid-secure, and who are now having to turn away trade, reduce the hours of staff and try to protect their businesses amidst these restrictions, with not enough essential business support."