'We've lost December anyway' - city publicans and restaurateurs react to Sunderland remaining in Tier 3

It’s usually the biggest, most profitable, month of the year for hospitality, but December is officially a write off for city bars, pubs and restaurants after it’s been announced that Sunderland will remain in Tier 3.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 3:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th December 2020, 3:53 pm

Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that Sunderland, South Tyneside and the rest of the North East will remain in the highest tier as health leaders warned the Government not to move areas out of Tier 3 measures “prematurely”.

While many had remained optimistic that Sunderland would be dropped to Tier 2 after the tiers were reviewed on December 16, others say opening within the tightened restrictions isn’t viable.

"It’s for the best,” said Katrina Quinn, publican at the family-run Stackyard in West Herrington. “Running a pub in the previous Tier 2 was difficult enough, but this new Tier 2 is even stricter. Obviously we would love to be open as normal, but this news takes the pressure off us trying to police people at Christmas.

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Sunderland businesses respond to Tier 3 extension

"Financially, we’ve lost December anyway and at least this time, when the case numbers go up in January, which they will, they can’t blame the hospitality industry, as they have done all along.”

"That’s helping us pay the bills at the minute, and it means when we can open we will be in a position to do so,” explained Katrina.

Steve Lawson is landlord at The Times Inn in Southwick. As he doesn’t serve food, he’s one of the many pubs in Sunderland which would remain closed regardless of whether we’d dropped a tier as the new tightened tier system means alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal in Tier 2.

Stackyard is getting by on its takeaway food offering

He said: “It’s the pubs who serve Christmas meals that I have the biggest sympathy for as it would have made a big difference to them. We had already booked a table for Christmas Day which was £200 to start with, with tips and drinks on top, and that’s just one table.

"For me, I’m working on the fact I’ll be closed in December and January, but if we don’t reopen in February that will be really painful.”

Neil Bassett is part of the team behind The Ship Isis pub in Silksworth Row and Mexico 70 in High Street West.

He said: “I’m a little disappointed that we’ve remained in Tier 3. I know a lot of our customers are itching to get back into Mexico 70 and our team was looking forward to getting back to it too. But I can understand the reasoning behind it, we take safety very seriously and we’ve got all our measures in place ready to reopen as soon we are allowed, hopefully in January.

Steve Lawson at The Times Inn in Southwick

"We can just have a delayed Christmas then instead. In the meantime we’ve been teaming up with our other business The Ship Isis on weekends to serve takeaway fried chicken with all the American trimmings. It’s regularly been selling out. All the details are on our social media pages.”

STACK Seaburn also remains closed for sit-in custom in Tier 3, but is still operating a click & collect service.

Owners at the container village released a statement saying: “It’s unfortunate that the hospitality industry continues to bear the brunt, even though there is still no evidence to suggest that bars and restaurants are the cause behind any rises in infections.

"However, this decision is out of our hands and all we can do now is hope that the vaccine starts to have an impact and we can open again in the new year.

Neil Bassett at Mexico 70 in High Street West

"Our thoughts remain positive that 2021 will bring some much-needed cheer and we will once again be able to welcome you all back to STACK.”

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