South Shields landlords fear for future ahead of anticipated pub closures to combat Covid-19

Pub landlords in South Shields say they fear for their futures as the Government weighs up whether to push through a new enforced closure of bars and restaurants in the North East.

By Tommy Greene
Thursday, 28th January 2021, 3:51 pm
Pub landlords in South Shields say they fear for their futures.
Pub landlords in South Shields say they fear for their futures.

Government ministers are reportedly considering moves to impose a fresh shutdown of pubs and other hospitality venues across the region in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19, as cases continue to rise.

Ministers are expected to announce pub closures, along with a raft of more severe restrictions, on Monday.

Discussion on a three-tier system has also been reported as part of the series of stricter new measures, which could see different parts of England ranked according to infection rates.

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The Waterfront Gavain Allon.

Such a system could curtail business operations in the North East considerably more than in other parts of the country where lower infection rates are recorded.

Gavain Allon, who runs The Waterfront, said he may still be forced to call last orders at the town centre pub even if the imposed closure was not announced.

Mr Allon said he and other landlords in the town are losing thousands of pounds a week as a result of recent restrictions and that a fresh temporary shutdown would be the final nail in the coffin for businesses like his.

He said: “It has absolutely devastated the industry.

Mechanics Arms Gina Smith and Louise Carr (R)

“I’m already down thousands of pounds a week. Because I have a late licence, the 10 o’clock restriction means I have to shut up at around peak time.

"And if they do announce a closure on Monday, it’ll be done in various two-week stints, so landlords can’t claim.

"And, if that’s the case, I’ll just shut up shop.”

Gina Smith, owner of the Mechanic Arms and Lambton Arms, said she has already been forced to close the Lambton Arms due to government restrictions hitting revenues.

Ziggy's Julie Sullivan.

She now says she is ‘very worried’ she may have to close both.

"Usually this place [the Mechanic Arms] is closed during the week. Now, we’re having to swap it around.

"We do have some people who like one place and not the other. But, hopefully – because we have more seats in here – we won’t lose too many customers.

“It does feel as if we’re being singled out and picked on with these measures. Supermarkets, shops and cafes are not having to work with restrictions anywhere near as severe as the ones we’re working with – yet we’re the ones who seem to be picked out.”

The Steamboat regular Yusef Elmi.

According to Ms Smith, the Lambton Arms is set to shut temporarily this Sunday.

Stephen Sullivan, owner of Prince Georg Square pub, Ziggy’s Bar, said that – whether the Government chooses to close down pubs in the coming days or not – the ‘negative speculation’ has been having a significant detrimental impact on business.

"One of the most difficult things as a business is having to deal with that speculation.

"I wish the Government would be a lot more forthcoming in what they expect us to do, how it’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen.

"I’ve been happy to stick by whatever rules we’ve had to. But I can’t understand why they’re targeting Covid-secure venues, when we’re actually not what’s causing these things.

"So next week will really be a struggle either way. People don’t know whether they’re coming or going. It’s ridiculous.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock reportedly chaired a gold command meeting with regional chiefs on Wednesday to review the brewing crisis.

The Treasury is understood to be considering measures to support businesses during a temporary closure in the coming weeks.

However, the Government support may not be forthcoming until hospitality venues shut their doors – with ministers reportedly calling the situation ‘a mess’.

Yusef Elmi, 47, said he was not surprised by the new restrictions, but that he is concerned by the impact they could have.

“I did think this was around the corner with the rising number of [Covid] cases,” he said.

"I think pub closures could cause a lot of problems in the North East socially. With people not getting out and seeing others, it could really impact mental health during the winter months.”

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