Fresh restrictions have seen mixing between households legally banned or discouraged in several parts of the country, including most of Wales and northern England.
The latest areas to be plunged into stricter measures include the Liverpool city region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, where a ban on indoor socialising between households came into effect on Saturday 3 October.
Publicans said the new restrictions in their areas - in addition to national measures such as a 10pm curfew - had hit them just as they felt they were beginning to recover from the fallout of the Government ordered shutdown of hospitality earlier this year.
The Morning Advertiser is urging its readers to use #CancelTheCurfew across your social media and to tag in your MPs and other politicians demanding an answer to the trade’s question – where’s the science for the curfew?
If they can’t answer that, then we want the Government to #CancelTheCurfew
Katrina Quinn operates the Stackyard in Sunderland and said she has been struggling with the added responsibility of enforcing the ban on different households mixing.
Since the rule came into effect, business has dropped by around 80%, the publican said.
"On a Friday we have had 17 people through the doors," Quinn told The Morning Advertiser (MA).
"We have done all Covid measures from the start and now being penalised especially when so many pubs and restaurants weren’t doing it correctly.
"We are trying all sorts to get people to come in discount deals takeaways but Sunderland businesses that stick to the rules will be punished."
She added: "The one household is very hard to manage due to people saying that they are [one household]. We can’t call them liars so we can only ask the question and do our best."
Operator Barrie Walden runs two pubs in Caerleon and Ponthir, south Wales, and said the new local measures had meant his trade was down 70% on an average week.
Residents are not allowed to travel out of their areas unless it is for essential purposes, such as getting to work or school.
“My pub is situated 50 yards from two different boroughs and so have lost a large amount of customers just five minutes walk away,” he said.
Older customers have also been deterred from visiting the pub, the publican said.
Walden added: “Many people are now not enjoying the pub experience. They want to sit and chat with friend and not be in a clinical waiting room.”
One publican operating with the household mixing ban in place reported their trade was down 90% on last Saturday (3 October) compared to the previous year.
Trade at their Hartlepool pub had been hit by the restrictions so much so that it was only couples venturing out, they said on social media.
Hey @BorisJohnson. We had 78 people booked in yesterday. You’ve changes the rules again and now we have 13 today. My rent, utility bills are still the same and I still employ the same number of staff today as I did yesterday. What do you expect me to do?— The Rose and Crown (@RoseAndCrownBeb) October 3, 2020
The Rose and Crown in Bebington Village, Wirral, must operate under the same one household rule.
Its operator said the new restrictions saw their numbers drop considerably for Saturday 3 October, with many cancellations from parties made up of different households.
James Skinner added: "Our business has taken a real hit over the last few months and these latest set of restrictions are devastating."
Ill thought out
"We’re only allowed one household per table inside so people who have been coming here on the same day for 50 years to meet their friends can’t even have a drink with them," Skinner continued.
"The 10pm curfew is ludicrous. Our busiest hour of each day is 9-10pm so every day we’re turfing out a pub full of people all at the same time, all getting on the bus together all for what purpose? There seems to be no science behind it at all, just an ill thought out knee-jerk reaction. We can only hope that it gets repealed in the forthcoming government vote."
The operator said he has "had no support" as a wet-led pub other than 5% VAT on soft drinks and crisps.
"Our turnover is a third of what it was when we reopened and we are already down on pre-lockdown figures. Our capacity was halved by making sure we were Covid safe which brought it down to 71. Now we could have 19 people in and be full," he added.
"We still have to pay rent, we still have to pay utilities and we still employ the same number of staff. What do the Government expect us to do?"