South Tyneside landlord whose pub was hailed in Parliament fears his business could soon go under
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Lee Hughes, landlord at Perth Avenue’s Red Hackle, said his business was trading at just ‘20 per cent’ of last year’s custom ahead of it’s latest shutdown and believes wet-lead pubs like his were being unfairly penalised under the new tiered local lockdown system.
“We acted on government guidelines on the reopening after [national] lockdown one,” he said.
"We were told by the council, ‘You’ve ticked all the boxes. You will be able to reopen on July 4’. I wasn’t expecting to come to September and lose half of that workforce because of the new restrictions in place.
"When I was trading in July, I was somewhere between 40 to 60 per cent.
"And then, come September, I’m trading on 20 per cent worth of custom. Then they obviously shut us down in November.”
Establishments like the Red Hackle would not be able to reopen even if South Tyneside was placed in Tier 2 when its current Tier 3 status is reviewed later this month.
Mr Hughes added: "At 20 per cent trading, I would never be able to survive into the New Year – even with the new fund. Even at the rate I was trading at in the summer, it wouldn’t be enough to survive.
"I’ve spoken to my landlord, who wants rent. And I can’t pay him rent out of something I haven’t got.
"I’ll be hanging on as long as I can stay there - until Easter hopefully...[But] I’m a business that relies on a weekly trade to pay the bills.”
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne raised the plight of Mr Hughes’ business and others like his this week in the Commons, ahead of a vote on the Government’s new tier system – which passed by a margin of 213 votes on Tuesday evening (December 1).
Earlier that day, she said ‘The £1000 grant announced today for wet pubs will barely touch the surface’ before defying her party whip, along with South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who also voted against the tiering proposals which Labour had ordered its representatives to abstain on.
She also praised community pubs like the Red Hackle for their ‘great work in supporting kids in our community when the Government refused to fund free school meals over the half-term period’.
Mr Hughes, a former independent councillor and self-described ‘community champ without any of the glory’, said that, if his pub were to go to the wall, the town would lose an irreplaceable social hub.
He said: "The community hubs are not just a place to come and get drunk. During the daytime I have a clientele that ranges from 50 to 80 or 90-year-olds, who come to just sit and socialise.
"It’s like an ‘older library’ – they can come, read a paper, have a pint and have a chat.
“That’s what we’re losing. I want to get up every morning and get the bar ready for the likes of them coming out at 12 o’clock.”