On a breakout group at the end of The Morning Advertiser's MA500 conference, along with others, I expressed my concern about opening up before there is enough confidence in the market and before we are clear of a lot of the restrictions that make hospitality 'inhospitable'.
It is very important that, when we are able to welcome customers back, we should be able to do so without rules and regulations that detract from that experience. To open up too early will only give customers the impression that the 'restrictions are the new normal' and the pub experience is no longer a happy one.
Free of rules
Opening too early will have two severe negative consequences. One, customers will not enjoy the experience and will be lost to the industry for the long-term. Secondly, the reduced footfall in the short-term will lead to business operators burning through cash, as costs exceed the limited revenue.
This is an opinion shared by other operators in the region, as last week's article in leading regional newspaper the Shropshire Star confirmed.
Some Conservative politicians seem to think that hospitality can be re-opened as soon as over-50s are vaccinated! Perhaps they should do some more research, as scientists' advice (the ones that the Government claims to follow) has been consistent that a vaccination does not become effective for around two to three weeks after it has been given.
Realistic reopening date
My feeling is that if schools do re-open on 8 March, this will only bring us back to tier four restrictions (akin to a national lockdown, with pubs closed). If, as seems likely, the whole country goes into national tiers, we cannot move to tier three (pubs still closed) until even the likes of Blackburn, Leicester and Sandwell, etc. are ready. In tier three, we will still not be able to open. If tier three is not reached until April, will the whole country be ready for tier two (limited opening) by May? Even if that is the case, re-opening with restrictions is likely to lead to the two consequences outlined above.
Additionally, the Government may have learned from the disastrous Christmas super-spreader [situation] and not want to open us up for the bank holidays on 3 and 31 May. This increases the chances that we might well see Tuesday 1 June as a realistic reopening date.
Much as I would love to be open and trading again, please be aware that many of us want to be long-term operators, not just chasing short-term takings in April and May. Some of us want to take a 10-year view, as seems to be popular in some Governmental circles!