Liverpool pub 'trapped between devil and deep blue sea'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coronavirus, Liverpool, lockdown

A Liverpool operator has said he feels “trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea,” as he debates whether or not to close his site.

Adam Franklin operates the Horse and Jockey in the Sefton borough of Merseyside where pubs were told to close under tier 3 measures unless they can offer customers a substantial meal with alcohol. 

He said the restrictions amount to a 50% reduced turnover and so he would make an “unemotional decision” based on sales figures at the weekend.

The publican told The Morning Advertiser​: “We reopened and had an absolutely stonking July and August. Eat Out to Help Out, with all of its problems, was still financially successful. Then the Prime Minister has snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory for the hospitality industry. 

He blamed Government leaks and messaging for “an erosion of confidence in hospitality” and said the focus should instead be given to transmissions in education.

“We’re feeling hung out to dry by the Government and fairly unprotected,” Franklin added.

Blame game

“Hospitality and the pub industry are being blamed when the evidence suggests that's just not the case at all. We are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea as a food pub that has a substantial food offer. We still can't operate on 50% reduced turnover, which is what we have got.”

Franklin described the Government’s support measures as “derisory” and said the 67% wage cover was not enough to help his staff.

While the Government has announced it will increase the amount of grant funding available for businesses ordered to close in local measures, Franklin said this would “pretty much go to pay the electricity bill and that’s it”.

He believes the Government should issue similar support to the measures in March, including a more substantial furlough scheme and cash grants. “If it was good enough in March, why isn't it good enough now?” 

Support scientific measures

“We support measures, as publicans who love our community,” the operator explained. “We support scientific measures that are proven to work because we are part of a select group of people in this country that have implemented measures and been rewarded with it, quite simply, from the transmission rate coming out of hospitality.

"What they have done, especially in this region which relies so heavily on the visitor economy, is snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We were there, over the line. The support last time enabled us to get to where we were six weeks ago, which was viable. Then it has all been taken away. There's nothing we can do as operators."

Supportive punters

During the lockdown in spring the pub handed out food parcels to isolated or struggling residents in Melling​ and villagers have not forgotten the pub’s kindness.

“People have been sending us messages of support in the absence of coming out because they do love us and we love them," Franklin explained. "It's heartbreaking. On Saturday night, we had three lots of presents dropped off for staff. People say 'you did what you did for us in the last lockdown and we are here to support you'.”

Some of the customers who have had to cancel bookings have been “nearly in tears on the phone”. 

“They can't come but they don't want to let us down,” Franklin explained.

The pub has seven bookings left in the diary whereas six weeks ago, it would have had around 300.

The Horse and Jockey felt the impact of the household mixing ban almost immediately, according to Franklin.

"The Prime Minister talked about lights flashing like the warning signals on a plane, well he wants to look at ResDiary, 20 minutes after he makes an announcement and see the red flashing that happens to our industry every time he opens his mouth," the operator said. "This industry is just exhausted."

Related topics: Legislation

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