‘It’s slowly killing us’ - Essex pubs and restaurants react to new lockdown rules
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A Colchester restaurant owner said 75% of bookings for Saturday night have been cancelled following the upcoming ban of household mixing in Essex as he called for more support from the government.
From Saturday, Essex will move to Tier 2 of the government’s coronavirus system following an exponential rise in cases in recent weeks.
The move means household mixing at home or in indoor public places, such as restaurants and bars, will no longer be permitted.
Piers Baker, owner of popular restaurant and bar Church Street Tavern in Colchester, said he has already lost 75% of bookings for Saturday night following the announcement.
“This is slowly killing us,” he said. “We can’t go on like this.
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“Only 4% of cases can be traced back to hospitality, it is the reopening of schools and cases rising in care homes which is the problem, so why are we being penalised?”
Mr Baker also owns The Sun Inn in Dedham, on the Suffolk Essex border, and questions where this decision has come from.
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“If they wish to stop us trading, then they need to give us more financial support,” he said.
“We don’t have to shut down in Tier 2 so we have to continue trading, but there is no help. Our furloughed staff on 60% can’t pay 60% of their rent. It’s not feasible.”
Mr Baker said he has already had tables of twos, threes and fours cancelling their reservations for Saturday night.
He also questioned the 10pm curfew, which he said “makes no sense” and just causes a rush of people in the streets. He is losing out on two and a half hours of trading as a result.
Meanwhile, Tom West owns three pubs along the Suffolk Essex border – The Marlborough in Dedham, The Red Lion in Manningtree and the Lord Nelson in Ipswich.
His Ipswich pub will remain within Tier 1 restrictions, while his two in Essex – less than 30 minutes away – will be forced to implement the household only rules.
“This is a terrible position to put a business in,” said Mr West.
“There is not a good enough support package for us, yet we are not being forced to close meaning we have to trade.
“Therefore we are having to cut employees hours and we just can’t offer them more support due to the loss in trade.”
He said this is a “massive discouragement” and it feels like we are going back to March.
“We are being told to stay open, but people are being encouraged not to come to us, so that is not helpful,” he said.
Mr West said it is “devastating” for the industry and a number of his long-standing employees are now considering a career change.
“In my Manningtree pub I cannot open with household mixing, but les than 1km away in Brantham people can go to a live music event.”
He said that pubs not following the guidelines should be closed, but those, like his own which are Covid aware, should not be punished.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 jobs are being axed at pub chain Marston’s – which has two pubs in Ipswich – as curfews and new coronavirus restrictions continue to hammer trade.
The group said around 2,150 of its pub workers currently on furlough support will be impacted, while it will also launch a further cost-cutting plan by the end of the year.
Marston’s put the blame squarely on the recent nationwide measures to tackle the surge in coronavirus cases, which has seen 10pm curfews placed on hospitality venues.