02:45PM, Wednesday 23 December 2020
The hospitality sector took a double blow last week, as tier 3 restrictions spelled the end of business for a number of pubs over Christmas – then came tier 4.
Although tier 4 restrictions have made little practical difference, the extra bad news has further drained morale.
Michelle O’Keefe, owner of The White Hart in Holyport, was more aggrieved when the Royal Borough moved into tier 3, which meant she would have to close while non-essential retail remained open.
“That was when the frustration and anger came out. Why was retail allowed to stay open when pubs had to shut? If there’s a risk then everything should shut,” she said.
The White Hart has since packed up everything and is giving away all the food in its fridge and freezer to Maidenhead Foodshare.
It has also made the decision not to reopen until February, even if the tier situation changes.
“We can’t keep going through this up and down,” said Michelle. “We’re just going to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.
“I’m frustrated because I know what we did was right. We didn’t have any scares, no positive cases. We introduced table service, then substantial meals – then we had to close. That hurt a lot.”
Mark Newcombe is chairman of the Craufurd Arms and also a community pubs advisor with the Campaign for Pubs.
The Gringer Hill venue is one of the pubs that never reopened after the first lockdown because it ‘wasn’t worth it financially’.
As a community-owned pub it has faired better than many, as it is not beholden to landlords or pub and brewery companies.
“I don’t know how many pubs will survive this ongoing disaster,” said Mark.
“They will have missed out on the Christmas bonanza, when some of them have put up shelters outside and taken bookings.
“To get a few days’ notice must be devastating for them. All they’ve done is build up debt.”
He added: “The hospitality industry has been singled out for some reason.
“It’s when the schools and universities went back that the massive spike happened.
“With all the sterilisation in our pub, it was safer than your house.”
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