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Following the government’s announcement on Monday afternoon that pubs in Liverpool will close in two days’ time, owners were scrambling to figure out how they would survive the next few months and save jobs.
An option being considered by some was takeout and delivery services. But Simon Vanderbelt, who runs the Little Taproom micropub in the south of the city, said his business would still go under if the lockdown lasted beyond winter.
Meanwhile, the operator at the Derby Arms in Knowsley, Peter Boardman, said that, while he was considering the strategy, profits would probably be measly.
“Without the bespoke service of being in a pub, why would people pay more for their beer when they can go 100 yards down the road to Bargain Booze and get eight cans of Carling to take home,” Boardman said.
The situation is similar in Ireland, where bars that serve only drinks have been closed since March. “Obviously it’s another killer blow for us,” Vanderbelt said. “Wet-led pubs have missed out on all the assistance. It smacks of a complete lack of understanding on the part of the Tory government. This could have been averted with a fully functioning test-and-trace system.”
He added that there was no scientific evidence to justify the latest closures.
Vanderbelt said local breweries would also be affected, and called for more government support for the industry, such as bigger grants.
Karen Strickland, manager of The Grapes in Mathew Street, which has been around since 1804 and is one of Liverpool’s oldest pubs, said her first reaction was that she could do chips, beans and pies to enable the pub to stay open, but she does not have a licence to serve food.
“We have done everything possible that we could, with test and trace and social distancing,” she said. “I can’t see the science behind it [the latest rules].”
Whether pubs that operate as restaurants can remain open is still to be confirmed in the details of the government’s new three-tier lockdown system. If they have to close, Boardman said his main fear was saving his staff’s livelihoods at the Derby Arms, which is the last remaining pub in Knowsley Village.
“It’s not a very good feeling thinking that we might have to close our doors again. I’ve got 42 staff and I want to make sure that [they’re] OK.”
The pub’s previous tenant left at the start of the national lockdown in spring, but Boardman insisted the Arms – which is owned by Greene King – would “come out of the other side” of the new restrictions.
For Peter Kinsella, co-owner of Liverpool restaurant Lunya, allowing restaurants to remain open was “the worst possible outcome”. With attractions such as gyms and casinos also having to close, and residents discouraged from travelling into town, he believed trade would drop off by at least 80% at the Catalan tapas and deli venues in Hanover Street and Royal Albert Dock, despite “brilliant” online sales.
Instead, Kinsella, who has run Lunya with his wife, Elaine, for 10 years, had hoped for a blanket lockdown to cut coronavirus rates, that would have ensured the government would support businesses like his. “That policy will lead to a vast amount of redundancies with us and across the city,” he said.
“What’s frustrating is we are a really strong successful viable business. Over that 10 years we’ve paid over £8m in tax, one small little family-owned restaurant. The government can’t afford to lose the likes of us. That taxation is going to be what pays the country’s debt.”
Residents, too, were disappointed to hear that their home town is to be the only area affected by the tier 3 restrictions, with one suggesting they had been “scapegoated” by the government.
“Liverpool is full of amazing independent businesses, from restaurants to market places, pubs and bars. What will they do now?” added Louise Johnson, 30.
“Landlords will still expect their rent to be paid, council tax will still be expected to be paid, income tax will still be expected to be paid on [two-thirds] of their income under new furlough rules.”
Catherine Fahy, 29, a pension administrator, said she was concerned about how the hospitality industry, which “so much of Liverpool” is dependent on, would survive closures of up to six months.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Killer blow’: Liverpool’s hospitality industry despairs at Covid rules | Coronavirus outbreak