Tier 3 operators apprehensive for reopening 'logistical nightmare'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tier three: some operators say they will not be able to reopen until next year
Tier three: some operators say they will not be able to reopen until next year

Related tags: lockdown

The Morning Advertiser asked operators under the toughest band of England's coronavirus measures about their business hopes, ahead of a review of areas' tier statuses on 16 December.

Under tier three, pubs are only allowed to operate takeaway services, leaving pubs in areas such as Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Kent closed.

Some operators in England are hopeful they will be placed into tier two when Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets out the first review of the tiers on Wednesday 16 December. This would enable them to open as long as they serve a substantial meal with alcohol and do not permit different households to gather indoors.

They told The Morning Advertiser​ their anxiety about wasted beer orders and future closures.

However, for some operators it will only be viable to reopen once their area is placed into tier one, where up to six people are allowed to meet indoors and pubs can serve alcohol without food.

Luke Payne, chef owner at The Pack Horse, Hayfield, Peak District

"Initially [being placed in tier three] was a huge shock because we’re really rural round here. There's absolutely no need for us to be anywhere near tier three. We were in tier one before and had only just gone into tier two the day the second lockdown was announced. So to suddenly find ourselves in tier three at the other end of it was a real shock."

pack horse

"But it is also understandable, we are in quite close proximity to Manchester."

"There's nothing we can do about it at the end of the day, so we had to grit our teeth and say 'what can we do in the meantime?'"

The Pack Horse has been producing meal kits for customers. "It's something a bit more premium for people to do at home. It's covering the cost of the bills, which is all you can hope for at the moment."

The chef owner is hoping to be in tier two after the review. 

"Logistically, its gonna be a nightmare, we know that already, being that close to Christmas, and having to essentially reopen another business again," he added. "It's going to be really difficult."

"And then it's a case of, are we gonna be able to reopen again for more than two weeks? Or are we going to be locked down again immediately afterwards? It's just uncharted waters and we don't know if its going to be financially worth setting up for doing two or three weeks of trade to be locked down again."

He added: "Our beer order day is the day of the announcement. Do we leave it till the last minute?"

Chris Tulloch, managing director of north-west based Blind Tiger Inns 

"At Blind Tiger Inns we have 18 pubs, of which four fall into tier two and the remaining 14 are in tier three.  All of our pubs are wet led, so this means we currently have no pubs trading."

blind tiger inns

Not opening in December means more than £1m in lost revenue across the pub group’s estate. The company is considering installing kitchens and food facilities in a number of sites to attempt to capitalise on potential trade towards the end of January, Tulloch said.

Tulloch added: "Our current situation is that after grants and other support, including landlord rent support, our outgoings are way in excess of the income.

"As a business, Blind Tiger still remains financially well placed to continue hibernating until restrictions are eased, however we are deeply concerned that the government support does not go anywhere near far enough to cover the costs. We appreciate that the rules are that we must not trade, and as disheartening as this is, we could almost accept it, however being not being supported to the point of break-even is astonishingly bad practice from the Government. Contrast this with other countries who are being asked to close, but being given fair compensation and it really doesn’t seem fair.

"Overall, we have survived the storm thus far, and are focused on creating a solid strategy to come out of the pandemic as strongly as we went into it and have a huge number of plans as we look forward to 2021."

Robert Graves, operator of the Half Moon in Easington, County Durham

This village pub is keen to open this month if given the green light and placed into tier two. However, its operator is not feeling optimistic about the infection rates in his region.


Graves said the date of the announcement posed a dilemma of when to order beer stock.

He explained: "Food side we normally can get next-day deliveries from our suppliers but it an absolute nightmare with beer orders because our order day is a Friday for Wednesday delivery, but as [we are] not notified until 16 December, we would have to put an order in on this Friday. [We would be] guessing that we will be allowed to open and if not, that's around £4,000 of stock just sitting in cellar with all the money tied up as well.

"Apart from stocking issues, the pub is ready to open in a heartbeat as it has been redecorated inside and out, staff are chomping at the bit to get back to work and all our regulars can not wait to get back and see friends. Some of our customers are in their 70s and 80s and live alone. A couple of hours each day breaks the loneliness and also provides them with their main meal when they are out."


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