Tier talk - how operators reacted to new rules

Pub and bar operators have been reacting with anger, frustration and dismay over what the latest tier restrictions will mean for the UK’s on-trade.

Pub and bar operators have been reacting with anger, frustration and dismay over what the latest tier restrictions will mean for the UK’s on-trade.

The reaction follows the prime minister’s announcement on new tighter tier restrictions that come into place when the lockdown ends on 2 December.

The country will be split into three tiers, with businesses operating in tiers two and three having to close unless operating as a restaurant (tier two) or as a takeaway (tier three).

Venues in tier one will gain an extra hour of trading, with last orders being called at 10pm and doors closing at 11pm.

“Yet again, the UK pubs sector must pick itself up off the floor after another crushing blow,” says Nick Mackenzie, Greene King chief executive. “We’ve invested millions of pounds to make our pubs safe throughout this pandemic, but it feels like pubs have been unfairly singled out once again with increased restrictions that will make pubs across the country unviable through the most important month of the year.

“Pubs play a key role in combatting loneliness and isolation. Safety is paramount but restrictions must be proportionate and not put hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs at risk across the hospitality industry.”

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has compared the most recent measures to the ones agreed upon after the first lockdown in July, where regulations were devised after consultation across various industries.

“These regulations worked well, trade slowly recovered from very low levels and transmissions of the virus in pubs, as verified by the test and trace system, were extremely low,” he says. “However, since then the rules have constantly changed without consultation, on an arbitrary basis, causing mayhem, unemployment and economic dislocation across the hospitality industry.

“No one in the government seems to have any experience of running a business – and their current policies seem destined to cause the loss of a million jobs in hospitality, with further ‘ripple effect’ job losses throughout the economy.”

The lack of business experience within government is a point also made by William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees, who spoke to Pub & Bar last week for an upcoming interview in the magazine. “There is not a lot of business experience around the cabinet table,” he says. “I just wish we were trusted more to help come up with guidelines that work.”

Trade takes to Twitter

As has become customary for frustrated pub and bar operators, many took to Twitter to make their position clear and highlight to MPs what the tiers will do to the industry.

In a response to an interview given by Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, Tim Foster, co-founder of Yummy Pubs, said: “Come and see what a booming pub looks like in tier one @grantshapps. Jesus mate you have no idea!!! And the spin to trade us off against schools again, just disgusting politics. Answer our question; ‘Where is the evidence?’”

Peter Borg-Neal, chairman of Oakman Inns, believes civil disobedience could be the answer. He tweeted: “It seems to me that we now have to seriously consider some form of mass civil disobedience for the well-being of our country. Not rushing around with pitchforks and flaming torches but cleverly planned defiance. The key will be having strength in numbers.”

Alex Reilley, chairman and co-founder of Loungers, has also been vocal on Twitter throughout the pandemic. Yesterday, he accused Boris Johnson of treating pubs as dispensable. “Pubs where you can stand at the bar and drink a pint of frothy ale and feast on nothing more than basic bar snacks are part of Britain’s historic and social fabric. These are the truly Great British pubs. Today @BorisJohnson deemed them dispensable and confined them to the Covid dustbin.”