Lancaster and Morecambe landlords appeal for support if pubs are forced to close next week

Pubs and restaurants across the Lancaster district are waiting to hear what the government will announce on Monday, with an expectation that they will close or face tighter restrictions.

By Nick Lakin
Friday, 9th October 2020, 2:10 pm
Updated Friday, 9th October 2020, 3:23 pm

The government is due to set out more support for businesses forced to close by law as part of the next stage of the Job Support Scheme for businesses that may have to close in the coming weeks or months.

Some pubs say they are not ordering any fresh food or opening new barrels of beer in preparation for potential closure.

Tim Tomlinson, chair of Lancaster Pubwatch and landlord at The White Cross, Merchants and Stonewell Tap in the city, said that many pubs are "just surviving".

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An announcement about further restrictions or closures is expected on Monday.

"Customer confidence is moderate, and people are going out, but if there are any more restrictions that will change things and we'd be in a lot of trouble," he said.

"I'd rather be fully closed than take a further hit.

"Furlough is working at the moment, but there would have to be support if there are any further restrictions or closures.

"There's an expectation that we'll be closed.

Tim Tomlinson, chair of Lancaster Pubwatch.

"We're not tapping any more beers on Sunday anyway."

Lancaster recently launched a Covid safe accreditation scheme in a bid to reassure customers.

Lancaster MP Cat Smith raised the question about further restrictions and support in Parliament this week.

She said that many businesses may not have to close because of local restrictions, but they have seen a drop in footfall and a decline in their business.

Dominic Leighton, landlord at The Three Mariners.

She asked what kind of support will be available for businesses and what they can expect when local restrictions are put in place.

She also said that she would like to see evidence as to why Lancaster should be grouped in with other parts of Lancashire where cases are much higher, although she added that cases were also rising in Lancaster.

Dominic Leighton, landlord at The Three Mariners in Lancaster said: "It's already been an incredibly difficult time for venues, particularly those in city centres, and another forced closure will put businesses under even more pressure.

"If the government is forcibly closing venues - despite the fact that with all of the measures in place they're likely far safer than many other settings - then they must ensure that there is a support package in place for both businesses and staff members.

"Without them the face of hospitality in the United Kingdom will be irrevocably changed forever.

"I think that a full closure with support is certainly preferably to what we're seeing in Scotland, which will likely see businesses limp into bankruptcy."

Jamie Allison, landlord at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands, said: "At the moment we're doing pretty well.

"I'd be more worried if I had a pub in a city centre right now.

"It's anyone's guess as to what will happen on Monday, and its fifty fifty as to whether further restrictions will apply to the Lancaster district.

"If it comes to closing at 6pm, there's not really much point, it's not really going to be workable, and we'd probably end up finishing food at 2pm.

"If we closed I certainly couldn't afford to pay my staff without some sort of support."

Charlie Edwards, Lancashire County Councillor for Morecambe South, who also co-owns the Boardwalk Pub on the promenade, said: "We are in a catch 22.

"If the pubs close and the cases go down, then it will be argued we were the cause of this spike.

"If the pubs close and the cases stay up, yes we will be proven right, but we will still have lost the revenue.

“Our staff and customers have responded to the new restrictions so well.

"We’ve had a lot to contend with: changing our entire business model, conflicting messages from the council, the Track and Trace system and the goalposts constantly changing.

"I think pubs should close, staff be paid in full, not the complicated Job Support Scheme and then we all need to encourage customers back in and remind them to love their local.

"Pubs are the backbone of a community and losing them now will mean losing them forever.”

Tim Tomlinson also said that infection rate for respiratory diseases continued to be low in the hospitality sector.

He said: "The idea that putting any extra restrictions on will help reduce infections is a bit of a nonsense.

"The hospitality industry accounts for around four per cent of the total for respiratory infections."

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest that, in England, between one-in-170 and one-in-240 people you meet in the street has the virus.

An update on restrictions, which could see pubs and restaurants shut in the worst-affected areas of the country, including Lancashire, is expected on Monday.

Lancashire’s public health boss says lessons need to be learned from the way in which the North of England has been brought to the brink of tough new lockdown restrictions.