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COVID tiers will 'rip the heart out' of hospitality industry, pub claims

COVID restrictions after lockdown are going to ‘rip the heart out’ of the hospitality industry, a pub chairman has claimed.

With the national lockdown due to end next week and the country going into another three-tier system, pubs and restaurants are waiting to see how they can operate from December 2.

The Government is due to announce on Thursday this week which tiers areas will be placed in, with different categories having ramifications on the hospitality trade.

Tier 1 would see pubs open until 11pm – but only taking orders up to 10pm.

While in Tier 2, they should operate as restaurants and only open if they can serve a ‘substantial meal’.

The final tier would see them close, except for delivery and takeaways.

Mark Newcombe, chairman of the managing committee at the Craufurd Arms, in Gringer Hill, says he does not find it viable to open in any tier.

He expects the Royal Borough to be in Tier 2, although the council’s lead member for health was not certain about this when speaking to the Advertiser earlier this week.

“Basically [in Tier 1] we can serve up until 10pm – and we have to employ our staff for an [extra] hour and make no income,” he said.

The second tier would also cause problems for the community-owned Craufurd, which would find it difficult to serve meals.

“We just can’t compete. It needs extra staff; it is just an absolute headache,” Mark added.

“I have been hearing from people, and the general view is this is going to rip the heart out of the hospitality business.

“The likelihood is we won’t be open until the end of March. We will just sit this out. We need support from the Government – most pubs in Tiers 2 and 3 will.

“It is going to be devastating for the industry. It is not just the pubs, it is the supply chain; the breweries.They do not know what to do.

“They [the Government] have completely thrown community pubs under the bus.”

Despite restrictions and an expected closure until the spring, Mark was confident the Craufurd would return. “We will be there at the other end. I can’t wait,” he said.

Elsewhere, in Holyport, The White Hart tweeted to say it would be renaming itself as ‘The Sacrifical Lamb’.

“[Be]cause that's what it feels like. Wet-led pubs are slowly but surely being destroyed by the ever-growing restrictions placed on us,” it added on Tuesday.

Restaurants and cafe’s are also awaiting news on how they can do business.

The Strawberry Grove is a cafe with locations in Maidenhead, Marlow and Lane End.

Co-owner Stuart Downs said it was a ‘real blow’ to close for the second lockdown, claiming businesses ‘need their customers more than ever’ now.

“We've continued our online store showcasing local suppliers and high quality groceries for next day delivery which we set up in the first lockdown,” he said.

“But it was a real blow to have to close our cafe in Bridge Street again in the second.

“Maidenhead has never returned to the same levels of footfall since spring this year, so local businesses need their customers more than ever at this difficult time.

“However, we are really pleased to re-open our doors to our Maidenhead customers next week and will be serving our full menu of coffees, cakes and brunch. We really look forward to welcoming you all back.”

Addressing the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We will continue to bear down hard on this virus. Many more places will be in higher tiers than was previously the case.

“Tiering, testing and the roll-out of vaccines. Employing all three techniques together serves to drive down the infection rate.

“I really am assured now that things will look and feel very different after Easter.”

Mr Johnson also announced that during Monday’s press conference that it is ‘the season to be jolly careful’.

Up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a ‘Christmas bubble’ from December 23-27, the PM announced on Tuesday.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “We understand the pressure businesses are currently under, particularly pubs. These restrictions are essential so we can control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“On December 2, England will move back into a regional, tiered approach. In tiers one and two, pubs will be able to stay open until 11pm while pubs in tier 3 can still operate takeaway and delivery.

“We have put in place a wide-ranging package of financial support and extended the furlough scheme until March 2021 to help business through this period.”

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