Sunderland publicans remain optimistic in light of new restrictions and latest Government support
Sunderland publicans remain optimistic in light of new restrictions imposed to help limit the spread of Covid 19.
For the past week, city pubs and other hospitality venues have had to close at 10pm as part of the local lockdown – with pubs around the country since following suit.
And from Thursday, September 24, venues must operate with table service only and staff and customers must wear face coverings indoors unless they are sat at a table to eat or drink.
It means people need to wear a mask on arrival and to walk through the bar.
Other measures affecting the hospitality industry is the national rule of six, which means that you can be fined for socialising with more than five other people, and the local lockdown advise not to socialise at all outside of your household or social bubble.
It comes as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced plans to bolster the economy, including the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% remaining in place until 31 March 2021, and a new jobs retention scheme.
The Saltgrass in Deptford is among those that have had to adapt to the changes and, speaking about Mr Sunak’s announcement in the Commons, owner Walter Veti: said “Anything helps, but we don’t know what it all means as yet, at the minute it’s just words.
"I’m not sure how applicable the jobs retention scheme will be for us as a lot of our staff are salaried. I think the VAT reduction helps, but is more beneficial to restaurants who primarily serve food, rather than pubs whose main focus is alcohol.”
Due to the historic nature of the pub and its size, it wasn’t practical to rely on indoor trade, so much of its offering is outdoors in a partially covered bar area called The Anchor, as well as in a former car park which is being used to create more outdoors space.
Although business has been affected by confusion over the new rules in the last week, Walter says he hopes a strong line up of events, such as DJ Danny Rampling this weekend and Oktoberfest next weekend, as well as a Rocky Horror event for Halloween, will keep people coming along.
"I would say table bookings were down five fold last weekend because of confusion over what’s law and what’s guidance and there definitely needs to be more clear explanations,” he said.
“Because of track and trace and extra sanitisation, pubs are seen as safer places for people to mix than in a house.”
Neil Bassett from Ship Isis in Silksworth Row said: “Our number one priority is the safety of customers and staff. Since we reopened on July 4 all of our tables have been safely distanced, it’s been table service only, there’s sanitising stations all around the building, a dedicated entrance and exit, a regular and thorough cleaning schedule, tables have been kept to 6 maximum and we have collected all customers track and trace details.
"Because of this the new restrictions are not too different to what we’ve been doing all along, so customers should feel assured that we’re doing all we can to provide them a safe place for a drink or some food and can even offer customers a private room if they wish.”
Steve Lawson took over The Times Inn in Southwick in June and opened the new look bar, which this week unveiled a Jimmy Montgomery mural, on July 4.
"The pub has always had its regulars, but I’ve noticed more other people coming along since we renovated the site,” he said. “The tables have the necessary space between them but people can still hold a conversation with a different table.”
He added: "I think if we can open as a pub at this time, we can get through anything.”