"We should be compensated for what we have lost": 1,200 Lancashire pubs 'at risk' under borough's new restrictions

Pubs and bars in Lancashire have an uphill struggle to face as the new Tier 3 restrictions pose difficulties to the industry. The government's financial support package has been deemed 'vital' for the survival of the businesses affected by the restrictions.

By James Holt
Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 12:30 pm

And now, 800 pubs and bars have had to close their doors, with a further 400 financially impacted across the borough under the new restrictions.

The news comes as Lancashire was placed in the third tier last Friday, October 16, meaning that venues such as pubs and bars must stay closed in a bid to tackle the virus.

These businesses can now only remain open if they are operating as restaurants and serving a 'substantial meal'.

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Winckley Street Ale House, Preston

With that, came the promise of a £42 million support package set to give a helping hand to the region's struggling businesses and infrastructure.

For Mark O'Rourke, owner of the Winckley Street Ale House, reduced footfall, along with funding he claims 'isn't enough', have now resulted in the uncertain future of his Preston bar.

He claims wet businesses who have had to close may actually be better off under the new restrictions.

He said: "I am more worried about the way the new restrictions work. If you are a venue that doesn't serve food and you are forced to close, your staff still get furlough and you are able to get a small grant. I wouldn't be in a position to close because I sell food, so I wouldn't have been forced to shut. Therefore, my staff wouldn't get furlough and I wouldn't get any additional help to pay the rent.

Owner Mark O'Rourke said Lancashire businesses won't see any of the government's support fund

"Friday was great for us because everyone wanted to go out and get the last pint, but now it has dropped completely. Over the weekend, we made just half of what we had done the week before because people are worried about if it is safe to go out anymore. On top of that, people don't want to be forced to spend money on buying food.

"We won't see any of the government funding. No businesses will see a penny of it. Preston businesses get any of that. It will be spent on more pop-up cycle lanes and diverted here and there. Realistically, £42m to businesses affected across the whole of Lancashire is not enough money.

"I don't make loads of money, the fact is, if we trade now on half of what we did in the last quarter, the business won't be viable and we would have to close. My electric and rent is still the same, my staff have to be paid, and we are now forced to stay open because that additional support isn't available for us because we haven't been forced to shut."

Andy Mac, owner of the Wellington Inn, Glovers Court, said: "Honestly in an ideal situation, we would be compensated on the 75 per cent of our footfall and takings that we have lost because of Covid-19. We have to close at 10 pm and more and more people are put off coming into the city centre and that's affected us greatly.

The Wellington Inn, on Glovers Court

"Unless we are able to stay open, we should be compensated for that but it is extremely hard to work on an individual basis. We have seen a massive problem at the Wellington, we traded as a bar in July and have only just rebranded and started serving food to stay open.

"I don't like to be defeated and I wasn't going to let the new restrictions close us after all our hard work through the pandemic. We were told to close at the beginning, then people were encouraged to come out to pubs, bars and restaurants so we had to implement new measures, and now we are told we are the problem again. We are just puppets on strings.

"Financial worries for my businesses have left me in tears and insecure for the future. You get lifted up by the loans the government offer, but then once the money has run out and you realise it has to be paid back, you are in a worse position than before. The constant up and down has taken its toll, we need to see security for our staff's jobs, fair furlough pay and our decreased footfall compensated.

"We have lost so many of our city-centre customers because people just don't want to come out. It has hurt us a lot and the government need to pay for it, I will fight for that."

Pub owner Andy Mac said the funding should cover money lost due to reduced footfall in the borough

The harsh reality of not surviving another lockdown remains a scary prospect for pubs who often operate on smaller earnings and fail to turn over huge profits.

And for smaller venues such as micropubs that have spent months operating on reduced capacity, such as Applejacks Microbar, the cost of staying open is higher than shutting up shop.

Micropub owner Raymond Mclaughlin, opened his bar Lostock Ale, off Jubilee Road, just two months before the initial lockdown was introduced in March.

He has since had to close for the second time as the borough entered another lockdown that impacted his business and claims he has lost money on stock.

He said: "We are devastated that this is happening to us again because we only had a few weeks of trade since January and have only been reopened again since June, but we realise that we must obey the rules and will now remain closed for the foreseeable future.

"Money is a concern for us because last time we shut, we had to pour hundreds of pints down the drain which was such a waste. We have had so much support from all our local customers over these difficult months. We need to see more financial support from the government to help us survive again."

Raymond Mclaughlin, owner of Lostock Ale microbar has had to close under the new restrictions

The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, responded to the news that tier three lockdown measures will be placed on Lancashire, impacting 1,200 pubs.

The trade association says a stronger package of financial support is 'vital' not just for pubs, but also brewers and their wider supply chain in Lancashire if they are to survive.

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Tier three restrictions will have a devastating impact on pubs, brewers and their wider supply chain in Lancashire unless a proper support package is available to all businesses impacted.

“Pubs in Lancashire are already struggling with the 10 pm curfew, rule of six, lower levels of consumer confidence and a huge drop in domestic and international tourism.

“These additional tier three measures mean pubs in Lancashire can only remain open if they serve substantial meals, but with even more restrictions including no mixed household groups either inside or outside and only being allowed to serve alcohol with a substantial meal.

"This will completely kill the business model of up to 400 pubs. The remaining 800 pubs who don’t serve substantial meals will be forced to close completely. The survival of all pubs in either of these categories is hanging dangerously in the balance.

“Countless jobs will be lost too if the Government doesn’t take action. We are a people business – our staff and customers are everything – we are nothing without them. In Lancashire alone, 20,000 livelihoods are supported by these local pubs.

The business of pubs and bars being 'killed' is all-too-real for David Tootle, owner of the Hesketh Arms, New Hall Lane, who had just three customers in his venue at lunchtime yesterday, October 20.

He said extra financial help would be needed by the government to cover the costs of running the venue during these difficult times.

"People aren't coming out because of the rules. From Friday midnight more rules came out, so Saturday there was nobody in. The rules and regulations are affecting all the businesses," he said.

"If we do go into lockdown, we need more financial support or grants to help. We have a roof and bills to pay, and there are only three people in today which is all we have had since 12'oclock."

Emma added that there needs to be 'urgent clarity' on cash grants that should cover lost revenue and high fixed costs that pubs in Lancashire face.

She said: "The Government’s current grants – as low as £325 per week for many pubs – are simply not enough. Grant support given to them needs to be in line with the vastly bigger funds available in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A Preston City Council spokesperson said: “While the headline points of Tier 3 have been announced by Government, our environmental health and legal teams are working through the details provided so far.

“Our business advice webpage will be updated as soon as possible and we’ll continue our work with Lancashire Police in visiting licensed premises to ensure they are operating within Covid safety measures.”