There has been no change to the Government’s local lockdown tiering system for the region, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the North East would remain in Tier 3.
Large swathes of the South East, including London, were also placed in Tier 3 this week – with Bristol and North Somerset two of the only areas in England to be moved down to Tier 2.
Consequently, publicans in South Tyneside will not be able to serve customers again until 2021 – with a number fearing they may never reopen.
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Chris McKellar, landlord at the Harbour Lights in South Shields, told The Gazette that the lateness of the Government’s tier system review date meant he would not have been able to reopen his pub, even if South Tyneside had entered Tier 2 this week.
“We’d be too close to Christmas to get up and running in a Tier 2 situation with the single household rules,” he said.
"This means the business is going to be shut during the most profitable time of the year, which will be tough for everyone involved with Harbour Lights and for local residents. We’ve been one of the hardest hit areas up here in the North East.
“Even with the vaccine, we’re probably looking at Easter time as the point when a bit of normality can return. We want to reopen as soon as we can, obviously, but if we’re being realistic it is probably going to be Easter now.”
Lee Hughes, whose establishment was hailed in Parliament just last month, said the decision would dampen spirits further in the town, at the end of a draining year.
"For wet-lead pubs like mine, we would have had to come out of all the tiers in order to be able to trade again,” Mr Hughes said.
"We’re coming up to what would usually be one my biggest trading weekends in the calendar - with Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and the week leading up to New Year. And obviously none of that is going to happen now.”
Stephen Sullivan, owner of Ziggy’s Bar in South Shields, believes one silver lining coming out of the announcement could be a more adequate financial support package for the hospitality sector.
He said: “I think inevitably when London gets put in harsher restrictions, the reality hits home of how difficult this is. And I’d like to hope that they see that.
"It’s incredibly difficult for us right now. So I just hope they do provide a better package to support the industry.”
After the latest tiering announcement, council chiefs from across the North east, including Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, called for families to ‘carefully consider’ their Christmas plans.