Plan B restrictions, including the requirement for Covid Passes at night-time venues, were dropped yesterday (Wednesday 19 January), having been enforced on 15 December 2021.
Pitcher said the combined impact of Plan B had “severely impacted trade”, with Revolution Bars experiencing a 10% to 20% drop in footfall, and cashing out £30,000 to £50,000 each week on the Covid Pass scheme.
What’s more, customer confusion surrounding Covid Passes often resulted in violence towards staff and other customers. Pitcher said: “We were having to deal with a lot of confrontation, as people couldn't understand why they needed a Pass, or they weren't aware of needing to have a Covid Pass before they entered the premises.
“Often, they had been enjoying a night out in a pub or a restaurant and had no idea that at some point in the evening, they were going to get asked for a vaccine passport, so it came as a shock and an abrupt end to their evening. Understandably, they were quite upset, and we were having to deal with that on the front door”.
Getting people through a queue as quickly as possible is key, as long queues often cause flashpoints. Extra checks on the door meant longer queues, leading to an increase in violent incidents.
Pitcher said: “It is completely unreasonable is for the Government to dream up very divisive restrictions, then not pay the money to run a proper awareness campaign, thereby leaving our teams to be the ones to break the bad news to guests when they our out enjoying themselves. It’s not fair on our teams or the general public”.
Furthermore, the scheme created friction between the operators and local councils, who had very different interpretations of the rules.
"We were having to explain and print off government information occasionally, to show local authorities that we were operating within the guidance and their understanding was slightly misguided,” said Pitcher.
He added: “Operating in the late-night economy, you want to work in partnership with the local authorities, the police and the operators.
“You always want that to be harmonious, and when the local authorities turn up feeling they're in the right, but we know, according to the rules that we’re in the right, that, again, is just causing disharmony in that ecosystem”.
As well as Plan B restrictions lifted, Pitcher believed a campaign to get workers back to the office was needed, in addition to a extension of the lowered VAT rate for six to 12 months, and a reconsideration of business rates come April.
Where are the grants?
Additionally, many Revolution venues had not received their slice of the Government’s grants for hospitality businesses, which were delivered to councils on 7 January.
Pitcher said: “There’s been a blanket approach to the grants that were talked about from Rishi Sunak, who made the political headline of putting money in the pocket of hospitality businesses when they most need it.
“Well, here we are on the 18 January, and we've got 57 premises in England that are eligible for a grant mentioned back in the middle of December. We've had one grant issued to us out of those 57 sites, and 20 of our local authorities that we operate in haven't even got an application process set up yet".
However, Pitcher was hopeful for a positive trading period over the next few months. “At Revolution Bars, we’ve got a young professional guest base who are desperate to get out and live their lives, so as soon as restrictions are lifted, we're very hopeful that we'll return to buoyant sales”.