Wigan pub owners say closure plans risk 'killing' the industry

"Appalling", "out of touch", "killing the hospitality industry."
Andrew McKenna, landlord of The Crown at WorthingtonAndrew McKenna, landlord of The Crown at Worthington
Andrew McKenna, landlord of The Crown at Worthington

That's how Wigan pub owners described news that hospitality businesses across northern England are widely expected to be told to shut again, with the government claiming it will limit the spread of coronavirus.

With less customers allowed inside, big investment in new safety measures and extra staff required to serve at tables and police new rules, pubs are already struggling.

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And Jim Harrison, who with wife Fiona has only recently re-opened the Shamrock Pub in Standish, said pubs were being unfairly scapegoated and that very few infections are coming from them.

He said: "We only re-opened at the end of August and spent a lot of time and money getting things ready and Covid-secure.

"So to be told we're shutting is appaling.

"It was bad enough having to close at 10pm as they were all of a sudden saying Covid disappears at 10.

"There are very few cases coming from pubs and all the stats show they are one of the lowest areas for spreading the virus.

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"It's self-defeating and pubs are being unfarirly scapegoated, as you will just get people buying drinks from a shop and going home to drink with friends and not social distancing and breaking the rule of six."

Andrew McKenna, landlord of The Crown at Worthington in Standish which re-opened in July after a revamp, said the hospitality industry was being unfairly scapegoated.

He said: "We've not got much choice but I don't think closing the pubs is going to have much impact.

"All pubs are Covid-secure and all you'll get now is people getting drinks and meeting at home.

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"These decisions risk killing the hosptality industry that employs so many people.

"They opened the pubs in July and there were no infections and same in August, yet when children go back to school and students go to universities, cases then rise, yet they're blaming this on the hospitality industry."

Luke Beddow, manager at The Billinge Arms, said his pub stands to receive no financial support.

He said: "It's frustrating as when we re-opened we did everything to follow rules and regulations and make it safe for customers and it cost a substantial amount of money to do this.

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"Then we took a big financial hit from having to close at 10 and now we're going to have to close full stop. It makes you wonder what is the point after all the sacrifices we made and everything we've done.

"There will be no furlough scheme at the end of the month and we instead will have to rely on a job support scheme in which we'll have to pay one-third of staff wages, while we will get no financial support.

"The people in London making these decisions have no clue what's going on in the North West - they are completely out of touch."

Despite this the government continue to claim that nearly one-third of Covid-19 infections are coming through hospitality settings.

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Council leaders are resisting widely expected restrictions due to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday. These are expected to affect the hospitality industry across large parts of northern England and the Midlands, with ministers insisting these regions are seeing high rates of coronavirus transmission.

Bars, restaurants and cafes were reportedly packed in Manchester on Friday as revellers sought to enjoy venues before the likely shutdown.

Council leaders in the West of Yorkshire have warned of a “devastating” effect on town and city centres, while the leader of Newcastle Council, Nick Forbes, said a tighter clampdown would be a “travesty of justice” and Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said it would be “counter-productive”.

The Government has said it will pay two-thirds of the wages of workers in any businesses forced to close, which was met with mixed reaction.

Mayors from the north of England said the new measures appeared not to go “far enough” to prevent “genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter”.

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