Lockdown laws will expire on Wednesday 2 December, with most of England under tier two rules. Some 20,813 pubs will be under these measures according to real estate adviser Altus Group.
Pubs will be allowed to reopen but only if they can serve a “substantial meal” with alcoholic drinks, leaving some operators with no choice but to remain closed.
Sam Smith runs the Maypole Inn in Yapton, West Sussex, which mostly caters to drinkers and does not have any facilities to serve food.
“We spent a fortune and completely over hauled and redecorated the pub in the first lockdown so it was a clean, fresh pub inside. We muddled through until this second lockdown and prayed to be in tier one but no, we [must] remain closed.”
Smith feels frustrated by the emphasis on alcohol in the tiered system. “Everything can open from stadiums to coffee shops to antique shops but just to have one pint, your favourite pub now has to become a restaurant!”
Although the rules stipulate a business could team up with an external food vendor, Smith says this would be too risky as his customers have never wanted food before.
He fears the future of wet-led pubs like his and has decided he will probably not open until the new year, when restrictions are hopefully eased.
“It's not fair on our customers or us as owners,” the operator said. “We don't want to force our customers to eat, just to continue what they did pre-lockdown. It’s a social drinkers’ pub where everyone knows everyone and they look after each other and look after the pub."
“The sad reality is that wet-only pubs could be going forever,” he added. "Now all the pubs that thrived on drinks-only because they didn't smell of food are now going to lose their customers and may never see them again."
The inn has raised money for nearby hospices and air ambulance charities as well as being essential for local breweries. "It's a terrible effect on the village," the pub's operator said of its continued closure.
It comes as The Morning Advertiser’s Ed Bedington called on the sector to write to their MPs ahead of a vote on the new rules today (Tuesday 1 December).
Bedington wrote: “Wet-led pubs, my heart bleeds for you, as the government seems determined to ratchet up the thumb screws and put an entire industry of community focused operations, pubs that literally provide a light for many in their towns and villages, to the sword.”