Greater London, the south and west of Essex, and areas in the south of Hertfordshire will be placed under tier three from one minute past midnight on Wednesday 16 December, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
It comes less than two weeks after pubs were allowed to reopen under the new tiered system and means many will lose out on the trade they had desperately been hoping would make up for losses.
Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “Once again the Government has acknowledged hospitality is bearing the brunt of new restrictions to help control the virus but with no extra support to help businesses survive.
“Whilst we understand the need to manage the rate of infections, there is no getting away from the fact that moving London and other areas into tier three the week before Christmas will further cripple the pub sector, which is already on its knees and impact on the livelihoods of our team members and tenants.”
Mackenzie added: “Pubs in London have had an incredibly difficult time this year. Without workers and tourists, footfall has been exceptionally low, even when restrictions were lifted. Two lockdowns and a long list of restrictive policies have left the hospitality sector in dire straits. This week would normally be a bumper week for pubs in the capital, instead, many will have to close their doors yet again, despite a significant amount of investment to ensure safe socialising.”
The trade has been calling for eased restrictions or additional financial support measures to help businesses through the next few months of closure or difficult trading periods.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said the tier three rules will mean the closure of 1,250 pubs who were able to trade under tier two.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin called the move “another nail in the coffin,” for affected pubs, which join venues in Greater Manchester and Kent.
“It is cruel on hardworking publicans doing all they can to support their communities and invest in implementing all the required safety measures. Especially as the Government’s own evidence shows pubs are safe," she said.
Cruel on pubs
McClarkin added: “It is also cruel in stopping friends, families and loved-ones from using their local this Christmas as a safe space to socialise in, with all the evidence showing that pubs are ranked amongst the lowest places for transmission.
“A far bigger package of financial support, with wider eligibility for all businesses impacted, across all regions, is needed if our sector is to survive the tier two and three restrictions this winter. The survival of the great British pub as we know it hangs in the balance.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said placing hospitality into an effective lockdown was “not going to tackle increasing infection rates”.
“There’s still no hard evidence that hospitality venues are a significant contributor for the spike in infections. Cases were higher at the end of the last lockdown – during which hospitality was shut down – than at the start,” she added.
Nicholls said hospitality was “taking the hit” while it was other aspects of society including schools driving the spread of the virus.
At least two schools in London have announced they will close for the rest of the year and the Mayor of London called for all schools in the city to close amid rising cases.
“The Government is cracking down on hospitality for an increase in the infection rates that occurred during a period when hospitality was forcibly closed. It makes no sense,” Nicholls added.
“So many pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are only just clinging on by the skin of their teeth, but will be forced to take another huge hit. The burden of a region being moved into tier three falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses. It is an illogical tactic that fails to tackle Covid effectively but does push businesses closer towards failure.”