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Pubs and restaurants ‘may not survive’ coronavirus outbreak, owners fear

PUBLISHED: 16:37 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:38 17 March 2020

The Woolpack pub in Ipswich is encouraging customers to buy gift cards in a bid to keep money coming into the business  Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The Woolpack pub in Ipswich is encouraging customers to buy gift cards in a bid to keep money coming into the business Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Pubs, cafes and restaurants across Suffolk and Essex are stepping up their methods of keeping customers safe amid fears government coronavirus advice could “destroy” the industry.

Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig, said the government should do more to support pubs and give clear information  Picture: CLAUDIA GANNONBrendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig, said the government should do more to support pubs and give clear information Picture: CLAUDIA GANNON

As part of his first in a series of daily press conferences on Monday, March 16, the prime minister urged all citizens to “avoid” pubs, clubs and theatres in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Although venues have not been forced to close, many now fear they will be unable to make insurance claims.

In light of Mr Johnson’s announcement, the British Beer and Pub Association has written to Downing Street warning of an “existential crisis as a direct result of the guidance”.

It said failure to implement changes could “destroy the industry”.

MORE: Follow all of the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star coronavirus coverageWhat do restaurants say?

Brendan Padfield, owner of the Unruly Pig near Woodbridge, said he feels the government should do more to support the industry and make its plans clear.

Mr Padfield said: “I really don’t understand his ambiguity, it shows a lack of responsibility.

“Other countries have closed their restaurants and that is presumably due to good and sound reasoning.”

But despite the cause for alarm, Mr Padfield said his business is still operating well.

He said: “We still have customers coming through the door and we are continuing with our cleaning regimes and distancing tables.

“If we have to close for a few weeks or a month then that’s fine, but if it continues for longer then the restaurant may not survive.

“It is people’s livelihoods that are going up in smoke.”

MORE: Fraudsters pose as NHS staff in coronavirus scams

What do pubs say?

At The Woolpack pub in Tuddenham Road, Ipswich, however, landlady Marita Hunter-Rodwell hopes community spirit will help keep pubs like hers open.

Miss Hunter-Rodwell said the pub remains confident despite a “massive” drop in custom.

“I am relieved we don’t have to close as it means we can put cash back into the business in the event things did get worse,” she said.

“I called our insurers today and heard we would not be insured in the event of closure as coronavirus is a new development.”

As part of their efforts to keep customers coming in, the pub has upped its cleaning and disinfecting regimes and will be offering table service.

It is also encouraging customers to buy gift cards to be exchanged at a later date, while starting a new food and drink delivery service – on top of plans to distribute supplies to local people at risk.

Miss Hunter-Rodwell added: “It is wonderful to see the community coming together in the way it has. Right now it is all about helping local businesses get through it.

“It has been really difficult – we are not encouraging people to visit, but instead are letting people know that if they do want to come then they can feel comfortable.”

In Brandeston, local pub The Queen has been delivering supplies to those in the village in need of help, while locals have returned the favour by continuing to visit for a drink.
MORE: Join our Facebook group for all coronavirus updates in Suffolk

The Studlands Park Sports and Social Club, in Newmarket, has had to cancel events and fears it will have to cancel upcoming wedding receptions as a result of the virus.

Club chairwoman Stacey Heslop said she fears for the club’s elderly members who rely on events as their sole social interactions.

Ms Heslop added: “It has been really tough to get this club up and running during the past four years, a lot of hard work, people working for free, to see it close and go under, would break my heart.”

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