'Hopefully this is just one final push' - Sunderland businesses respond to latest lockdown announcement
It’s not the news everyone was hoping for after it was announced that Covid restrictions would not be dropped on June 21 – but Sunderland businesses are still looking forward to a brighter summer.
On June 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government is delaying the easing of restrictions until July 19 due to the spread of the Delta variant and to allow for a greater number of people to be vaccinated before social distancing is completely relaxed.
For the hospitality sector it means continuing as they have been since the last phase of the roadmap out of lockdown, when sit-in drinking and dining was permitted once more on May 17.
However, many had ordered stock to cater for greater numbers being allowed in bars, pubs and restaurants from June 21, with the month-long Euros tournament in particular expected to bring in some much-needed revenue.
Walter Veti from The Saltgrass in Deptford has adapted to restrictions by creating a larger outdoor drinking area at the historic pub. It currently holds around 200 people seated, and its outdoor big screen is already proving popular for the Euros matches, but the publican was hoping for double that number after June 21.
"At least we haven’t been closed again or had more restrictions, but the latest announcement is a shame,” he said. “It means we will have to continue with table service, which does create issues and is very tiring for staff.”
He added: “We had budgeted for restrictions being lifted and had ordered stock with that in mind. We were hoping that the final few weeks of the Euros would be restriction-free and we could have more people in, standing.
“We also had DJ events like Haze booked in, which will have to be rescheduled. But we’ve come this far, hopefully there’s just one final push and these next four weeks to go.”
At Stack Seaburn, the latest announcement means it will continue with its booking system until restrictions are fully lifted, with bookings of up to 10 people from mixed households accepted.
A statement from the seafront attraction reads: “We will continue to operate under the current restrictions to keep our customers and staff safe – we won’t be accepting requests for multiple table bookings and table service will be in operation.”
Monday’s press conference brought some welcome news for the long-suffering wedding industry with the announcement that weddings can go ahead with more than 30 guests – provided social distancing was in place.
Wedding photographer Helen Russell of Sunderland-based Helen Russell Photography says that although there’s been less weddings taking place, those that have gone ahead have still been special.
"The increase in guest numbers is a positive step forward for the industry,” she explained. “Hopefully, the restrictions that are still in place won’t put people off still going ahead this year. So far the weddings I have witnessed have still been so beautiful and special.”
The Roker Hotel is one of the city’s most popular venues for weddings and, like many other sites, had a full diary of weddings for 2020.
July and August is a peak period for nuptials and the seafront hotel is still looking forward to helping make the big day memorable, with up to three weddings booked in each weekend over July.
Jonathan Graham, operations director for Tavistock Hospitality, who own the Roker, said: “We had a full diary for weddings in 2020 and we had to jam those into 2021 as best we could.
"The latest announcement is good as we can now have our venue at 50% capacity, which means we can have up to 175 guests in our ballroom."
He added: “However, on the down side, they can’t enjoy themselves as much as they can’t mingle with other guests or chat to friends and family, some of whom they haven’t see for a year, and no dancing.