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Yesterday’s post discussed England’s new three-tier lockdown system and the 10 p.m. curfew on hospitality venues.

I ended with tweets from a publican in Essex, whose story I will go into below.

However, a few news items are worth looking at first.

Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day:

That day, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced that more cities in the north of England would be moving to Tier 2. London and the adjacent county of Essex are also moving to Tier 2 as of Saturday morning, 00:01:

Essex has a low rate of positive tests, or ‘cases’:

London also has a low case rate. With a population of 9.3 million, it currently has 40 hospital admissions per day. On March 23, that figure was 505.

The death rate in the capital is also very low compared with the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

Conservative MPs representing London constituencies were not happy with all 32 boroughs being in Tier 2:

Here’s a more detailed graph of London:

These lockdowns no longer make sense:

Imagine the impact on the hospitality industry:

Guido Fawkes has the Tier 2 rules (emphasis in the original):

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
  • The “Rule of Six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport

As I pointed out yesterday, there is money to be had in Tier 2 and Tier 3 lockdowns:

As London will be in Tier 2 lockdown, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle has banned alcohol in the House of Commons catering outlets on the Parliamentary estate:

The Government have stated that their new tiered rules make them easier for the public to understand, but they are still confusing.

Adam Brooks, who owns two pubs in Essex, has been tweeting about the regulations:

This week, Spiked interviewed Adam Brooks for his perspective on pubs during the coronavirus crisis:

The interview appeared on October 13: ‘”The pub industry is on the verge of collapse”‘. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Adam Brooks says that the pandemic has damaged two viable businesses which are seasonal, something many of us do not consider when thinking about pubs. The mask policy has not helped:

I have never known anything like this – it’s quite worrying.

One of my pubs is very seasonal in its trade – it’s in the middle of the forest, and it’s food-focused. Lockdown meant I missed all the good weather of April, May and June. I normally make losses through the winter, and those months get me where I want to be. But I have not had that this year. We were lucky to have good weather when we reopened, and up until about two and a half weeks ago, I was optimistic that we would get through to March and have a fairly normal 2021, or if anything a good one, due to people’s desire to celebrate freedom. But the past two and a half weeks, with these added restrictions, have put a real dent in takings. The mask rule has put some people off – I have got friends that just don’t want to go out because they don’t want to wear masks.

My other pub is a backstreet pub. It survived on 60 to 70 people standing up around the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. New things like table service and having to have extra staff make it a real challenge. If the government brings in more rules, I think it would be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of us. At that point, it would probably be best if we closed and did some sort of deal with the breweries to reopen in more normal times. But, unfortunately, that would not protect the staff.

I am losing as much as or more than I would be if my pubs were closed. The worst thing is that being a leaseholder often means having personally to guarantee any future debts against your house. That means I have also got the risk of losing my house down the line if things go really badly.

He described the profile and habits of customers at his backstreet pub:

My backstreet pub is situated amid housing and other restaurants and shops. In the past I would have customers come in before they went for a meal at a restaurant. Then, around half past nine or 10, I would have customers come in who had finished their meals in restaurants, and just wanted an hour or so to chill out or to catch up in the pub. I have lost all of those people. I have lost the people who get home from work on a Friday night, put the kids to bed and pop to the pub. They are just not coming out because it’s not worth it. Overall, the curfew and the mask rules have reduced that pub’s trade by about 35 per cent.

Although Brooks appreciates having been able to take advantage of the coronavirus support from earlier in the year, he has little confidence in the Government’s handling of the crisis:

We were promised the initial lockdown would be brief, and I accepted it. But since June I have been unable to back this government on Covid. We have seen no evidence for the measures enforced on hospitality. It seems to me like the government is trying to put together retrospective evidence to back up these restrictions – and I don’t think it has got any …

If the government could explain why it is doing these things, that would be fair enough. But it can’t. Covid cases linked to hospitality are hovering at around three to five per cent of the total. To see an industry crash when there is no real proof that it is causing a problem is really hard to take.

Essex County’s move into Tier 2 could be very damaging for his pubs. Tier 2 was not yet on the cards when Brooks explained the effect of another lockdown or more restrictions:

This is a bit of a grey area. If we are suddenly hit with a law, not just a guideline, that says people from separate households can’t mix, we will be choked out over two or three months. If there are any more restrictions than we have in my area now – masks, the curfew, tables of six and the various other stipulations that we have – I think the industry will collapse. I really do. If it’s for any more than a couple of months, I can’t see the industry surviving.

A lot of publicans realise we are probably not going to earn any money until March. I have not really earned a penny since last March. Many of us can get by with the loans. But we cannot get by if our businesses are losing £2,000 a week or more until next year. In that scenario, we are goners.

The pub industry is meaningful to many people, a home away from home:

My old backstreet boozer-type pub really is the front room of many older people who want some peace and quiet or some social interaction outside of their family home. It’s a meeting point and it’s a community hub. A lot of the time, the pub is these people’s lives. During the initial lockdown, when my pub in the forest was closed, I saw two or three old guys with cans of lager sitting on the pub benches outside. That was very telling. We had stripped away a huge part of their lives that they could not do without. They could not get drinks from the pub, but they were just coming for the scenery and hoping that sufficed. Socially, it would be a disaster if pubs did not survive.

He also pointed out that an important supply chain revolves around pubs:

The pub industry employs something like a million people. If it collapsed, the supply chains would collapse, too. And that includes everything from breweries to greengrocers to meat suppliers to wholesalers to cleaners. People don’t realise what the pub industry supports in this country, and that’s a shame because sometimes people just think I’m sticking up for a place where people get drunk and disorderly. Your average pub isn’t like that.

Brooks rightly takes issue with the Government for not consulting people at all levels to understand the pub industry. At minimum, he says, Government ministers could have met with a CEO from a brewery to get a better picture.

He also has a low view of the covid crisis modellers from SAGE:

The scientific modellers, who have arguably got us into this mess, don’t seem to understand how people behave.

Brooks thinks that the 10 p.m. curfew should go in return for the following:

I have come up with a list of a few measures pubs could take in return for getting rid of the curfew. It includes things like having a designated staff member encouraging people not to congregate outside at the end of the night. We could allow the authorities access to our CCTV if they think there is a problem. We could commit to sending a weekly report to licensing authorities. We could have a rule whereby the last customer entry is an hour before closing. These are basic things we can do in return for dropping the 10pm curfew.

He concluded by expressing his disappointment that, up to now, the big breweries and pub chains have not said much about coronavirus regulations.

However, Tim Martin, who founded the JD Wetherspoon chain, has been speaking out. Today, Friday, October 16, the London Evening Standard reported that his chain is losing money. He also thinks that England should move towards the Swedish ‘herd immunity’ approach:

In the year to July sales plunged 30% to £1.26 billion and the divided to shareholders – which includes 10,000 of the staff – went from 12p a share to zero.

Last year, ‘Spoons made a profit of £102 million on sales of £1.8 billion.

Mr Martin called on the Government to follow Sweden’s coronavirus-tackling approach in a bid to save his pubs.

Sweden was one of the few European countries not to impose a compulsory lockdown, with pubs and restaurants allowed to stay open, as health officials opted for a “herd immunity” drive to combat the pandemic.

The outspoken chairman suggested the UK follow suit, as more than half of England prepares to enter the Government’s “high” or “very high” risk Covid alert tiers.

Yesterday, the Evening Standard reported on the damage that the tiered system is likely to cause the pub industry:

As Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association puts it: “Tier two measures mean pubs can remain open, but households cannot mix inside them. This completely kills our pubs’ business model making many of them totally unviable.”

UKHospitality’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Being moved into tier 2 is a curse for businesses. They will be trapped in a no man’s land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in tier 3. It is the worst of both worlds for businesses.”

Unfortunately, we have Government and SAGE members driving pubs into the ground.

Here’s Sir Patrick Vallance saying there is no such thing as herd immunity. Wow:

Here’s Matt Hancock condemning herd immunity in Parliament earlier this week:

Iain Duncan Smith MP (Con) has written an article for The Telegraph saying that our economy cannot go on like this:

I agree.

While everyone is empathetic to those who have lost friends or family to COVID-19, this is also true:

I hope that Adam Brooks’s pubs survive. May they prosper next year.

I wish all publicans the very best for the future. This is a parlous state of affairs.

Breweries and heads of pub chains really should try to arrange a meeting with Matt Hancock or a Cabinet minister representing business interests.

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