‘Hospitality cannot continue switching the tap on and off’ – pubs reopen in Tier 2 under cloud of ‘substantial meal’
Shops and pubs reopened today under London’s new Tier 2 restrictions - but businesses warned there is a tough Christmas ahead.
Non-essential shops, restaurants and watering holes welcomed customers on December 2 for the first time since the second national lockdown started on November 5.
Pubs have been told they can only reopen if they serve a “substantial meal”, although confusion remains about what that means. Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said a scotch egg would qualify.
Ben Caudell, who runs the Rose & Crown pub in Kentish Town, said: “There’s still a lot of uncertainty with the new Tier 2 regulations as to what constitutes a substantial meal.
“Both our kitchens at two different sites are outsourced, we take a small rental fee, and although we can serve food we will not be able to make any money, especially if customers have to leave after finishing their meal.
“This puts our business in an extremely difficult position especially after the last lockdown which decimated our cash flow.
“With no support from government, still having to pay full rent and the uncertainty of going into another lockdown, it’s only a matter of time before we will be looking to crowdfund to keep our business going.”
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Marcos Gold, manager of the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID), said: “It’s vital we now get to a stage where businesses will be able to be open without the fear of another lockdown in the new year.
“Hospitality and retail businesses cannot simply continue switching the tap on and off.”
Avril Castellazzo, owner of WCD Interiors in Highgate, welcomed her lifestyle store’s reopening.
She said: “It couldn’t come soon enough to see all our pubs and restaurants reopen, and all the beauty shops and hairdressers.
“We are so grateful to all our loyal customers who shopped online and from our window.”
Deanna Bogdanovic, from Muswell Business, said she is “deeply concerned” for local traders and called the new measures a “death blow” as “they will damage trade but without the same financial support”.
Lewis Freeman, chair of the Crouch End Traders Association, said: “It is great to see the independent retail stores, pubs and restaurants of Crouch End be able to open once again, all of which now have a challenge on their hands to be able to recoup much of the lost earnings from the past four weeks.”
Kam Rafiee, 34, general manager of the Garden Gate pub in Hampstead, said it is “hard to tell” what the new restrictions will mean for the business, adding: “In our trade uncertainty makes planning extremely difficult.
“You’ve got to remain fluid in terms of what you’re offering and how you’re offering it, and on the back of that just be very open to customer feedback, being able to change what you do, and how you do it.”
On Tuesday, as the new restrictions went before the Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a one-off £1,000 to pubs forced to remain closed.
MPs backed the new restrictions by 291 to 98, with 55 Tories voting against them and Labour MPs told to abstain.
Labour leader and Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister’s strategy posed a “significant” health risk and it was “highly unlikely” to see restrictions eased in parts of the country before Christmas.
He accused Mr Johnson of “over-promising and under-delivering” by pursuing an approach of short-term decisions that then “bump into the harsh reality of the virus”.
Mr Johnson acknowledged that the hospitality sector had borne a “disproportionate” burden in the effort to reduce coronavirus rates as he announced the one-off December payment.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: “A one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to close does not even count as a token gesture.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged concerns about perceived “injustice” in the allocation of tiers around the country.
“There’s no question people feel that they have been unfairly attracted, by proximity, into a higher tier than they deserve,” he said.
“People also feel that the tiering is not working for them.”
The tiers will be reviewed every fortnight and Mr Johnson has also promised MPs a fresh vote on whether to keep the entire system beyond February 2.