Publicans 'in limbo' as a second lockdown looms in Lancashire
Publicans across Lancashire fear a second Covid lockdown in the hospitality industry could have a devastating effect on their already ailing businesses.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is widely expected to announce an emergency closure of pubs, bars and restaurants across the county on Monday, just 14 weeks after the licensed trade was allowed to re-open in July.
The likelyhood of another total closure has left many praying the Government will also announce a full package of support to ensure venues can survive another shut-down, however long it lasts.
"This is going to be a big blow if it happens," said Jeremy Rowlands who owns three bars in the city - The Continental, The Plau and The Ferret. "How big will depend on what support package, if any, is available.
"To be fair it isn't really sustainable at the moment with many people staying at home and not venturing out. But it's going to be even more so if there is not help from the Government.
"Fingers crossed there is because it is desperately needed."
Janine Vanden is licensee of the popular Black Bull pub in Longton where tight restrictions across Lancashire are already proving a struggle.
"Because it has to be table service we are employing double the staff and only getting half the customers," she said.
"I hope the Chancellor doesn't close us all down, but if I'm honest we'll be probably better off than we are now. At least we won't have our outgoings.
"This week is the first time since I took over the Black Bull that I haven't paced an order with the brewery. I've worked out we are 58 per cent down on trade at the weekend and around 30 per cent during the week.
"It has really hit us hard, particularly the 10 o'clock closing. We're lucky that we have a good teatime trade. But they are gone by 7.30 to 8pm and then we normally have a quiet time until 8.30 to 9pm when the night people come out. Obviously they aren't bothering now.
"Personally I don't think pubs are the problem because if anything we are controlling it by making people wear masks and making them sit down.
"If we're going to be closed down again then I really hope that there is some kind of support from the Government because if not it is going to have a massive effect on the industry."
Lee Johnson, who is a manager at 1842 in Lune Street, said he was also keeping his fingers crossed for a support package to help businesses get through another lockdown.
"We are just in limbo as it stands, not knowing what the details are going to be if the Government does shut us down," he said.
"It will be a huge blow because another closure is likely to do irreparable damage to some businesses. Some will probably not re-open again.
"We have luckily been OK since we re-opened in July with a good steady trade. The 10pm curfew has really hit us though.
And while another closure would have an impact on the business, it will also be a real body blow to staff who are already doing less hours as it is. Many are young, with students at the university relying on their wages to get by.
"I've spoken to other people in the hospitality industry and they are very worried. But until we get the announcement and we know what the details are, all we can do is wait and hope."