'It's a fight for survival' say Sunderland publicans facing potential new restrictions
“It’s a fight for survival” say city publicans as a potential closure of pubs is mooted for the region.
Pubs in parts of Northern England could be closed as early as Monday, according to reports that a third round of restrictions could be on the way.
Downing Street says a ‘range of options’ are being considered as Covid-19 cases continue to rise rapidly in the North East and North West.
It comes after tightened restrictions in Sunderland continue to hit the hospitality industry hard with restaurateurs on Wearside saying the rules against the mixing of households has had a devastating impact.
The Wolsey in Roker has had a difficult 12 months with a fire in late 2019, followed by lockdown, to contend with.
Bob Klein, licensee at the well-known pub, has been hit by Covid both professionally and personally. As well as being struck down by the illness himself in March, which took him a month to recover from, he also lost his brother Jimmy, 72, to the illness.
"I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing as I know how serious the virus can be and we have to get on top of this,” he said. “But whether it’s right to shut the hospitality industry down is another thing. Round Roker there’s only be one case of a customer having Covid, none of the other pubs have had to close. We’re Covid compliant and do everything by the book.
"What concerns me most though is the staff. We employ 14 people here and we’re already working reduced hours."
Although the pub is popular, like the rest in the city, its footfall has been dealt a blow by the local lockdown restrictions, with takings down by two thirds and their usual 150 meal orders a day down to 40-60 a day.
"If the pubs are closed I really hope there’s some kind of financial package for staff,” said Bob. “We’re not a profitable place, the brewery take a lot of the profit. Even the £25,000 grant we got, £16,000 of that went to the brewery. It’s a real fight for survival at the minute.”
In Southwick, The Times Inn, one of the city’s oldest pubs dating back to 1854, reopened on July 4 under new landlord Steve Lawson.
Speaking about the reports of pubs being made to close, he said: “It’s devastating, we’re already jumping through hoops. In two weeks we’ve had to change our seating arrangements three times to comply with each new restriction and we’ve had two visits from environmental health – which we’ve passed with flying colours.
"We are really grateful as we have our regulars who’ve really supported us and kept us going, but people come to the pub to relax and they see an environmental health officer and a police officer coming in to do checks.
"I only became a publican for the first time on July 4, so I’ve only ever done it with these restrictions. I can’t wait for the day I can come in and there be no screens at the bar or to be able to play darts.
"If there was to be any financial support with a closure I’m not sure I would even be eligible as I only took over in July so don’t have any tax returns yet.”