Pubs in second tier 'better off closed'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Shut us down: publicans in areas with household mixing bans have pleaded for the Government to issue more support (image: Roger Kidd, Geograph)
Shut us down: publicans in areas with household mixing bans have pleaded for the Government to issue more support (image: Roger Kidd, Geograph)

Related tags: lockdown, Pubs, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Greater manchester, Manchester, Durham, Sheffield, Legislation, Health and safety

Pubs in the second tier of coronavirus measures have said they would be “better off” closed as they brace for slumped trading with a household mixing ban.

Areas categorised in the ‘high’ alert tier presently include Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire.

Restrictions for these areas include a ban on households mixing indoors, as well as the national baseline restrictions such as the 10pm curfew.

The tiered system came into effect today (Wednesday 14 October) and saw Liverpool plunged into severe measures under the very high tier, which include the closure of pubs unless they serve a substantial meal with alcohol. 

Operator Jamie Hunt runs the Cotton Arms in east Cheshire and has already experienced “a sharp drop off in trade”.

His canal-side pub used to thrive on tourist trade from weekend getaways to Liverpool and Manchester but has been “hamstrung” by recent measures.

Tough winter

Regulars make up a slim proportion of the pub’s peak trade meaning Hunt predicts it will be a “tough winter to survive”.

He added: “We see it as ‘last pub standing’. If we can survive longer than other venues then the trade will be condensed into fewer venues and there will be enough for us to thrive. Such a shame we are wishing other venues to fail in order for us to survive. But with us being close to venues that have spent [a lot] and won national awards, it’s going to be tough.”

Kathryn and David Boam operate real ale pub Dog & Parrot, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire and said they have been experiencing sleepless nights after the announcement of the ban.

The team at the Dog & Parrot, Nottinghamshire
The team at the Dog & Parrot, Nottinghamshire

Kathryn said the restriction “raises a lot of questions” about enforcement and means the pub will have to “dramatically” cut capacity.

“Now we must only have single households or support bubbles at a table but how do we check or prove that? All we can do is ask them,” she told The Morning Advertiser ​(The MA​). “We don’t have the right to demand proof, and what proof could we ask for, even if we were allowed to?

She said she was worried about customers pretending to be from the same household and then the pub being pulled up for breaching regulations despite doing “everything we could”.

“Unfortunately, as we haven’t been closed by the Government, we won’t get much help if we close, as it’s not financially viable to stay open,” she added.

Shut us down

One operator based in Durham shared his views on The MA​ Facebook page, urging Government to “please, please shut us down.”

“Can't survive in this tier two limbo any longer. Money is going out the door faster than the customers,” he added.

Another reader commented: “Already had cancellations, drinkers confused about seating arrangements and how it's going to work. Pub already running at 60% of turnover this could be the final nail in our coffin. Going to the pub has become a chore rather than a pleasure as is working in the industry.”

Others posted to say the situation had left them over-worked, anxious and missing time with their families.

“Would actually prefer tier 3 with support than tier 2 with nothing,” one publican said. “Our managers report that customers are slowly dwindling away as the atmosphere is no longer relaxed or enjoyable for them. Something needs to be done quickly.”

Publicans said similar on Twitter, with one saying it "would have been kinder" if they had been placed in tier 3.

Worst of both worlds

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said she was worried about the lack of support for areas where pubs must operate under heavy restrictions.

“For those businesses in tier 3 areas, forced to close their doors again, things look bleak but the support announced last week for closed businesses will hopefully give them the breathing room they need to survive another lockdown,” Nicholls explained.

“There is currently a concerning lack of support on offer for hospitality businesses in tier 2, and to a lesser extent tier 1, despite facing restrictions that is seeing trade down by between 40% to 60%. They will have the worst of both worlds, operating under significant restrictions without the financial support on offer to tier 3 businesses.”

Pubs forced to close under the strictest measures can access a £3,000 grant and furlough their staff under an expanded version of the Job Support Scheme (JSS).

UKHospitality is calling for enhanced grant support and enhanced Government contributions to the JSS to prevent job losses and business failures.

Businesses allowed to remain open in third tier areas – because they can serve a substantial meal with alcohol – are also weighing up if they would be better off closed.

Hung out to dry

Adam Franklin from the Horse and Jockey pub in Melling, Liverpool said he will close if food sales are not adequate this week.

The Horse & Jockey pub in Melling, Liverpool
The Horse & Jockey pub in Melling, Liverpool

“We’re feeling hung out to dry by the Government and fairly unprotected,” he told The MA​.

Since a ban on social meetings between households was introduced in the city his pub has faced a severe drop off in bookings.

There are just seven bookings left in the diary for the pub after a flurry of cancellations.

“Without support we are going to be dead in the water," Franklin said.

“We can’t have done more than we have done. It really is taken out of our hands, we can't work any harder.”

Related topics: Legislation

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