Pub and restaurant owners have said they fear beefed up coronavirus restrictions will drive trade away from the hospitality sector.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered all pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10pm each night, to offer table service only and that staff and customers should both wear face coverings indoors – except when sat at a table for eating or drinking.
Most pubs across the country were able to reopen less than 12 weeks ago on July 4 – a day that was dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ – with those in the Leicester lockdown area able to reopen on August 3.
But the sector is now bearing the brunt of tougher restrictions brought in amid fears of a second wave of infections, with medical advisors warning the UK could face an extra 50,000 Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 or more a month later unless urgent action is taken.
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We asked the landlords and owners of a number of Leicestershire pubs and restaurants how they feel about the changes.
Most we spoke to said they feel they will be able to implement the changes effectively and realise that action needs to be taken.
But they are also concerned about the impact the changes will have on the hospitality industry.
Here’s what they had to say:
Stacey Ward, owner of Fourwards at Ashfields restaurant, Earl Shilton
“We’ve already got a lot of safety measures in place. The only thing we’re not doing at the moment is the masks for the staff.
“In theory, the changes shouldn’t make too much difference to us, because most of our customers are gone by 10pm anyway, but I think it’s going to scare people again and put them off wanting to go out.
“Personally, I think they will close us next week. I think this is just like we were in February. The Government warned people about going out to eat, which resulted in us losing bookings left, right and centre. Already today, since the Government made the announcement, we’ve lost bookings for next week and the week after because people don’t feel safe coming out.
“It feels like the hospitality industry is being targeted for something that isn’t our fault.
“The Government encouraged everybody to come out in August, and the scheme had a great impact, but now, they’re saying you’ve got to be careful what you’re doing. It’s confusing and misleading.
“We’ll adapt and make the changes, but I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Christmas is coming up and normally we’d be full for December by now, but we’ve hardly got any bookings.”
“It’s a scary situation to be in.”
Josh Gray, owner of the West End Brewery, Leicester
“Not a huge amount is going to change for us. We were doing table service anyway and we have been since we reopened.
“In regard to masks, all staff have got masks provided anyway and will wear them. The biggest worry is going to be whether customers are going to actually come out based on them having to wear masks when they come into the premises now.
“How many people will be prepared to put that little bit of extra effort in, to make sure they have a mask and come down and still enjoy a safe evening?
“We close at 12am at weekends and 11pm in the week, so there’s not going to be a huge effect on our opening hours. We found that since we reopened, people have come out a little bit earlier anyway. Last night, I was cleaned down and closed up by 10.30pm, so most of our trade is pre-10 O’clock.”
Shaf Islam, owner of Chutney Ivy restaurant, Leicester
“The new stricter restrictions will devastate the pub and restaurant sector further. But, if the science suggests it will help to reduce the infections, then so be it.
“I do have reservations, though, as to how the curfew will be implemented. For example, do we kick everyone out at 10pm as some people might be halfway through their meals?
“If so, then technically we have to close at 8.30pm. It is all a bit confusing.
“I agree with all staff wearing face masks and the table service.”
Alan Merryweather, landlord of The Black Horse pub, Aylestone
“I was hoping for a 10pm last orders rather than an out for 10pm. I have been really critical of the pubs that flout the rules and maybe those who have been more lax should have been punished harder rather than a blanket 10pm finish.
“We have a VAT break that will help with extra staffing on table service.
“Whilst we are successful, I fear the 10pm will dissuade people from coming out in the evenings. Many of our customers pop out for a drink after family time and probably will not come out now.
“Face coverings are a nightmare for a glasses wearer like me, but I think this should have been introduced a while ago.”
Becky Farnham-Burrows, landlady of Old Black Horse Inn, Houghton on the Hill
“Thankfully for us, there are not too many changes to be implemented. We’re keen to be as optimistic as possible despite the stressful times that we find ourselves in. We’re fortunate that the community here in Houghton have been really supportive.
“We’ve been operating a table service only policy since reopening in July, so little will change in that respect. We’ve been using the online ordering system gogomenu, which has allowed us to take orders online and collect track and trace details easily, but we will of course display our track and trace QR code for those choosing to check in that way.
“The rule of six and the importance of social distancing has been reiterated, and again not much will change for us in this sense, as we’ve arranged the furniture to ensure that there’s plenty of space between tables.
“Our lovely customers have been great at keeping to the rules regarding the rule of six, and maintaining distances where possible and we’re sure they’ll be just as helpful in complying with the new rules regarding masks.
“Our team have been brilliant throughout all of this. They’ve risen to every challenge so far, helping our customers get used to our systems, maintaining safe distances when serving tables and keeping their hands and the pub as a whole clean.
“We’re confident that they will yet again adapt to today’s changes and continue to ensure that people can visit safely and comfortably. We’ll continue to welcome people with a smile, even though you won’t see it behind our mask.”