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Public flocks to pubs and restaurants ahead of lockdown

PUBLISHED: 14:36 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 14:36 02 November 2020

The Black Lion in Long Melford - owned by the Chestnut Group - pictured before the first lockdown  Picture: CHESTNUT GROUP

The Black Lion in Long Melford - owned by the Chestnut Group - pictured before the first lockdown Picture: CHESTNUT GROUP

Archant

A pubs group has seen a huge surge in bookings ahead of lockdown.

Philip Turner says the group has received 3,000 bookings ahead of lockdown  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPhilip Turner says the group has received 3,000 bookings ahead of lockdown Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Chestnut Group – which owns 12 pubs and inns across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex including its latest acquisition, the Cricketers in Clavering – received a flood of reservations after Boris Johnson’s speech on Saturday, October 31, announcing a second England-wide lockdown.

In total, the group has received bookings for 3,000 covers in the few days that remain before having to close the premises.

The last-minute surge to get tables before lockdown begins on Thursday, November 5, contrasts markedly with the group’s experience when the first lockdown was announced in March.

MORE – Pub group upbeat as it emerges from ‘horrendous’ lockdown period

“In March when the prime minister announced the advice not to visit pubs we were hit with a tsunami if cancellations for the following week,” recalled group founder and managing director Philip Turner.

This time around it was a very different story, with bookings pouring in and a plan of action in place, he said.

“A lot of those (bookings) will be for the outside spaces that we have created where we have wood burners and fur throws,” he said.

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“We have a lockdown plan for operations, growth, people and finance that was developed in response to the March situation – hence we are prepared and ready to execute.

“At this stage in March we were not made aware of the government plan to ensure that wages would be supported.”

This time though, the announcement about the extension of furlough was made with the lockdown date – which meant less anxiety for his staff, he said.

However, there were problems, including that the benefits package will require businesses to fund National Insurance – a cost burden that employers didn’t have to carry earlier this year.

Apart from that Mr Turner welcomed the furlough announcement – and the government’s decision to put an end date on the lockdown term. However, subsequent suggestions of an extension to lockdown have piled on the pressure once again.

“Adherence to the proposed lockdown is critical to ensure success. We had anticipated that the government would maintain a target re-opening date of December 2 to further encourage compliance by providing a target date for people to focus on.

“Less than 24 hours following the announcement the government are making significant noises about potential extensions to December 2. This is a disaster. Firstly, it will shatter confidence and rationale for adherence to the lockdown, and secondly it will restrict business’s ability to plan,” he said.


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