Landlord says Suffolk will have 'no pubs left' if Covid restrictions continue

Battleburys at The Kings Head in Hadleigh

The owner of Battleburys at The Kings Head in Hadleigh said it is "impossible to trade" under the current restrictions. - Credit: Archant

The landlord of a popular pub in Hadleigh has hit out at Tier 2 restrictions which he says make it "impossible to trade", calling for more help from the government.

Mike Ager, who has owned the Battleburys at the King's Head for the last 17 years, said the rules are so severe that people are not coming out to pubs and restaurants - and fears the impact this will have on the hospitality industry in Suffolk. 

He is calling on the government to provide more support for businesses which are under Tier 2 restrictions - which mean that people can only dine inside with members of their own household - claiming it is "not profitable if they shut or stay open". 

"Suffolk will end up with no pubs if this continues," said Mr Ager.

"We are losing a vast amount of money because the Tier 2 restrictions make it impossible for us to trade at all.

"We have chosen to try and continue to trade, but the restrictions are so severe that people are not coming out. 

"What the government gives us doesn't cover our overhead costs. It feels like the hospitality industry is being picked on and we are paying the price."

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Mr Ager said many of his customers are single people, or couples who usually go to the pub to meet with friends, but he is unable to sit these customers together indoors.

"We have 80-year-old women sitting out in the cold as it's the only place they can see friends and socialise," he said.

"But two friends can go shopping together - it just doesn't make sense to me."

He said he understands why the Tier 2 restrictions are in place, as cases of coronavirus are continuing to rise in Suffolk, but feels the government needs to show more support for the industry. 

Many pubs have not reopened under the Tier 2 rules and Mr Ager worries more will be forced to close their doors permanently.

The Battleburys at the King's Head is currently running off 20% of trade.

Usually, with social distancing measures in place, Mr Ager can sit 70 people in the pub with six to a table - but is now having around 25 people inside. 

His estimated takings for December are down more than 75%, which Mr Ager says the pub "cannot exist on".

He is also unable to furlough any of the pub's chefs, as customers have to order a substantial meal to be able to have an alcoholic drink.

Meanwhile, Nick Attfield, director of properties at Adnams, said Tier 2 can be the worst of all three tiers for pubs and hoteliers.

He labelled the new government coronavirus tiers as "crippling", as the sector continues to try to recover from lockdown.

Mr Attfield said: "Tier 2 can actually be the hardest of all restrictions.

"For the pub trade, especially for wet-led pubs, these restrictions do not work well – especially for the customers we typically attract at Adnams who want to enjoy a drink with their friends. 

"Tier 2 restrictions just don't work for an industry like ours. Wet-led pubs who can prove they make less than 50% of their money from food can receive the equivalent of £33 a day in support, it just isn't enough.

"All of hospitality under Tier 2 is effectively crippled  – I appreciate the support from the government and that helped the majority of us to recover losses from the first lockdown, but the tiers see us struggle again."