'I think a lot of pubs won’t reopen again': South Tyneside hospitality bosses react ahead of second lockdown
South Tyneside landlords have reacted with apprehension to the news that England is to enter a second national lockdown, beginning this Thursday.
The announcement of an imminent national quarantine that will last at least a month was made by Boris Johnson on Saturday, after a Whitehall leak on Friday forced the Prime Minister to deliver a weekend statement.
Number 10’s decision has been met with apprehension and frustration by pub and restaurant bosses in South Tyneside, who in a number of cases have warned they could face closure this winter if Covid-19 restrictions were ratcheted up.
Hospitality venues across the district, along with non-essential shops, will be forced to close for a second time this year as of Thursday.
Alex Chandler, owner of the Marine pub on Ocean Road, told The Gazette he saw the reasoning behind the announcement, but remains unimpressed by the chaotic nature of Number 10’s rule changes.
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”To be honest, I think it’s getting a little farcical now,” he said.
"The rules for hospitality have been changing every fortnight for months now. Regardless of which way the numbers have been going in the North East, the goalposts have been shifted continuously.
"This has created a lot of paperwork for those working in the sector. It’s a lot of faff for very little end result.
"If this does allow families to be together at Christmas, then I think it’s probably a good thing. But as far as trying to provide some clarity to the sector is concerned, we can’t see much change here.”
During the new England-wide lockdown period, which cabinet minister Michael Gove hinted could last longer than a month, furlough payments are to be restored to 80 per cent of wages for those unable to work.
However, details of a fresh support package for small businesses have not yet been revealed.
Anchor and Crown pub boss, Gareth Carr, said the Government’s lockdown announcement was ‘too little, too late’.
“The Government should've acted when they were advised to, weeks and weeks ago,” he argued.
"I know they’re saying it’ll just be a four-week closure. But they said that last time and we ended up shutting for four months.
"If they close us past 2nd December, I think a lot of pubs won’t reopen again. For the hospitality sector, December generally gets us through January and February, when it’s quiet.
"But we’ve had January-February turnout since July. I think we’ll be okay, but I suspect there are some pubs in the area that aren’t going to renew their lease and will soon be handing their keys back to the brewery.”
Carl Mowatt, manager at the Lakeside Inn, near Leam Lane, said the announcement was ‘half expected’ but that the prospect of restrictions extending into the festive period was a source of concern.
“I think we’d just turned a corner at the Lakeside – we were beginning to see people returning here, feeling safe and feeling comfortable.
"However, we remain positive as always. We’re going to be launching a takeaway service which we aim to launch this Thursday, just in time for the lockdown.
"We should’ve been launching a new in-house menu this week, but that’s obviously on ice now. So we’re currently in the process of drawing up a new menu for the takeaway service.”