Published: Dec 14, 2020
It’s been a trying year for the hospitality industry. When restrictions were lifted so that pubs and bars were allowed to reopen after the initial lockdown, and the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme was rolled out, it seemed as though things could only get better. Now, after finally coming out of lockdown 2.0, the government's tiered lockdown system has returned, putting continued pressure on the struggling sector. When will the hospitality industry catch a break?
The 3-tiered rule acts as a traffic light system, with local areas being classified as medium, high, and very high depending on the level of infections. Tier 3 (very high alert) will result in the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants with the exception of takeaway and delivery services.
In tier 2 (high alert), pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. This means that hospitality venues can only serve alcohol if it is accompanied by a ‘substantial’ meal and must close by 11pm. The same curfew applies to venues in tier 1 (medium alert), however they can operate ‘normally’ so long as they use table service only. Unsurprisingly, many key figures within the industry continue to oppose this plan.
When the tiered lockdown system was first rolled out in October, prior to the second nationwide lockdown, it was seen to disproportionately affect the North of England. At the time, Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, said, “We understand the public health need but fair financial support is crucial for those most severely affected and at risk of poverty and I am acutely aware of the disappointment felt both from our leaders and across the city region with the Government's decision.
“I am heartbroken that pubs and bars across Greater Manchester will now be forced to close without any evidence that this will bring transmissions down [...] It is my belief that this new lockdown will recklessly destroy our night-time economy.” Months have passed, and yet the tiered system is still affecting the North of England more than any other region.
We now know from data released by Public Health England that the hospitality sector accounts for a very small percentage of reported COVID-19 cases. So why does this industry continue to be punished more than others?
While government ministers spend time debating the definition of a substantial meal, the hospitality industry is once again forced to rapidly adapt to ever-changing guidelines, rules and restrictions. Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a simpler and more prosperous year for all bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes.
How have you been affected by the tiered system? More importantly, do you consider a single scotch egg to be a substantial meal?
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