Stop Blaming Hospitality

Stop blaming it on hospitality #CancelTheCurfew

Pubs, bars, restaurants and anywhere else that serves alcohol will be used to working within regulations, we are a much regulated industry. Rules are what we do, we like them, we enforce them and we abide by them. So like everything else that gets thrown at hospitality we took the COVID evidence and adapted our business.

After the initial lockdown we were worked so hard to ensure that we could open in a safe & secure way whilst remaining a socially safe space that provided the atmosphere and unique feeling of a pub environment. We reduced our capacity, we put in safety procedures and we trained all our staff in all things COVID. We invested in our ourdoor spaces, installed sanitising stations, introduced table service, increased our cleaning regime to further improve our already high standards and we had the ‘Rule of Six’ from day one. It was hard work but we did it because that is what happens in hospitality.

It took a while but confidence from the customers was slowly starting to return as they felt safe & secure whilst enjoying the pub. We were taking trace details, cleaning as we went, sanitising touch points every twenty minutes and doing table service. The toilets were one in one out, we had a one way system and adhered to every single guideline every single time. It was twice as much work for half the money but staff really took to it and even those customers with ingrained pub behaviours got the message and adapted to the new pub ways.

As a regulated industry our team of highly skilled people have the knowledge on how people behave once imbibing so enforcing the rules on those who forget or who were in high spirits is simple. We didn’t just put a poster in the window and some hazard tape on the floor, we drew up the guidelines from our understanding of the vague waffle that was produced for the hospitality industry. Our staff challenge the non-mask wearer, they ask you to sanitise, they enforce the one-way systems and they take test & trace details every time, a little bit different to any shop, supermarket or private home.

We did all this because we want a safe and secure place for both our staff & customers, and it was working; customers were beginning to feel more confident and secure and trade levels were slowly growing, nothing like they were before but growing, we had a chance, we were definitely viable. All this in areas of local lockdown, five of our six pubs are in restricted areas and have been since the end of July.

Then the curfew was brought in and as we all now know without any scientific reason. Anyone who works in hospitality will tell you that having everyone leaving at the same time of closure will just fill the streets, buses, trains, taxis, takeaways and off-licences with people. Yes the pubs are now empty, not just at 10 o’clock but now at 8 o’clock because who wants to come out for an hour then get turfed out into the street? Empty pubs though isn’t a sign that the curfew is working, quite the opposite, because humans, as social beings, are at house parties or having their friends over where there is no table service, social distancing, regular sanitising or test & trace system. They are stocking up on cut price booze sold under cost price at supermarkets where they don’t check in. Those who do go out are then forced to leave the socially safe pub environment at 10pm to wander the aisles of the 24 hour Tesco for 18 bottles of Sol for £8.80 to go back to ‘Kevins’ to drink.

If there is proof that hospitality is dangerous or is a high risk area of spreading COVID then please shut us down properly with support. We’ll be able to adapt what we do because that’s what we do. However this in-between situation we have is killing us. We need proof, we need consulting and we need clear rules, not half-baked ideas that we find out about from the newspapers or on twitter at 10pm. There is no proof that hospitality caused the second wave, it didn’t come in July or August when all hospitality re-opened, statistics have hospitality as a whole linked at between 3% & 5% to COVID cases and the NHS App has identified just one outbreak in pubs & restaurants from 1.5m check-ins. Hospitality isn’t increasing the risk of COVID, the curfew is.

The curfew and current government strategy will lead to the closure of thousands of venues and many more in the supply chain – brewers, delivery drivers and manufacturers and not to mention all those in the night time economy from musicians and artists through to taxis & takeaways and everyone in their supply chain. It is badly thought out, has no scientific merit and is making the problem worse. So #CancelTheCurfew now whilst we still have a chance to save businesses, jobs & lives because if we don’t there will be no pubs to drink in, no restaurants to eat in, no venue to watch music or performances in and no nightclub to dance in.

If we don’t act now there will be no independent local wet-led pubs left. You know, those places where all social life is seen, where friends meet up and where the lonely or vulnerable can get support. Those places where life is celebrated with weddings, funerals, birthdays & anniversaries. Those places that are the hub of the community, raise money for charities and provide work for locals. Those places where new skills are learnt, where new musicians & comedians learn their craft and where artists can display their work. Those places where youngsters learn from their elders, where life is discussed and where friendships & relationships are made. Those places where people can talk, where people can relax and where everyone is welcome. Pubs are much more than places to drink they are essential to life because without them what will we have? Microwave meals, X Factor, cheap mass produced booze and isolation, that’s what. We need to save hospitality, protect pubs and cancel the curfew now.