'Great relief' but questions remain - Sunderland business owners respond to ending of Lockdown 2

Sunderland business owners have spoken of their relief after Boris Johnson confirmed that the national lockdown will definitely end on December 2 – though questions still remain over pubs and restaurants.

Monday, 23rd November 2020, 5:52 pm

There had been concerns that ‘Lockdown 2’ would be renewed, as was the case with the first national lockdown for England.

However, speaking in the House of Commons today, November 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed full lockdown restrictions would end on Wednesday, December 2.

It will be replaced with a strengthened regional three-tier system, though no decision has yet been made on which set of restrictions the Sunderland and the North East will be subject to.

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Sunderland businesses respond to Prime Minister's announcement in the House of Commons

For many businesses in Sunderland, who are gearing up for what is usually their busiest time of the year, it’s positive news.

Non-essential retail, along with gyms and the leisure industry, can reopen when lockdown ends next week, regardless of which tier of restrictions the city is placed under.

The hospitality industry, however, still faces an uncertain few weeks as only pubs, restaurants and cafes within Tier 1 and 2 areas will be able to reopen from next week.

Boris Johnson confirmed the hospitality sector must remain closed in areas which are placed into Tier 3 following the end of lockdown.

Les Ojugbana pictured in Fitness 2000, Roker, before the pandemic

It means that bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels cannot reopen ahead of the festive period in the worst affected-areas.

The Prime Minister also announced pubs which do reopen in Tiers 1 and 2 can only serve alcohol with a “substantial” meal.

For those businesses which will be permitted to reopen, today’s announcement has come as a great relief.

Les Ojugbana owns the Fitness 2000 gym in Roker which, as well as promoting physical health, champions exercise to help mental wellbeing.

Non-essential retail can reopen from December 2

He said: “It’s fantastic news that we can reopen, but I don’t think gyms should have ever been shut in the first place.

"I 100% thought they’d keep extending this lockdown bit by bit, like they did last time, so this is a great relief.

"People aren’t stupid and as soon as we came out of the first lockdown our members followed all the procedures we put in place to make it safe. The gym has never been so clean as everyone cleans the equipment in between each use. People have really missed being able to go to the gym, it’s so important, especially now, for them to be able to maintain their fitness.”

Business owner Harry Collinson has decades of experience in the retail and hospitality sector and says this is the biggest crisis management he’s ever faced,

Harry Collinson at Pandora Sunderland

As well as being at the helm of Pandora Sunderland franchise in The Bridges, he owns The Looking Glass in Sunniside.

While his shop can reopen, it’s unclear whether or not the restaurant can, until it’s confirmed which tier Sunderland is in.

"For retail, today’s announcement has been a huge sigh of relief,” he said. “Retail is tough anyway, without a pandemic, and to be in lockdown for five months of the year is a huge hit.

"Christmas, especially, is so important for your turn over going into the next year so we’re hoping in the next three weeks we can claw back some of the losses and that the people of Sunderland will support their local businesses.

"We have a great team at Pandora, and we’ve managed to keep them all. We’ve been preparing for a December 2 reopening so they’re all ready to go.”

The Looking Glass reopened on Fridays and Sundays after the first lockdown and it had been proving popular.

The Looking Glass in Sunniside

As well as sit in custom for households and bubbles, the business adapted with at home picnic kits and had opened a new look courtyard area.

It also has a function space which is popular for weddings and events, another branch of hospitality hit incredibly hard by the pandemic.

"It’s incredibly frustrating for the hospitality industry, “ said Harry. “People miss getting ready for a night out and having a drink with their friends in a nice environment.

"There’s plenty of debate about hospitality and the percentages for transmission are incredibly low. We haven’t had one case at The Looking Glass. Hospitality has a high standard of hygiene anyway, and people want that bit of normality back.”

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