Landlords in Rutland question tier 2 rules to turn away tier 3 Lincolnshire and Leicestershire customers
Landlords in tier 2 are trying to remain positive despite the impact - and confusion - of yet more coronavirus rules.
Under the new regulations announced on Thursday (November 26), pubs and restaurants businesses may reopen on tomorrow (December 2) but can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.
The tier 2 rules also mean only people from the same household can visit together, last orders will be taken at 10pm before the premises is forced to close at 11pm and customers will be required to leave as soon as they have finished their meal.
Michelle Noll, who co-owns The Crown in Great Casterton with Stephen Barker, was shocked when Stamford was put into tier 3.
While their pub is in Rutland, it is less than a kilometre from homes in Stamford meaning many of their usual customers come from tier 3 Lincolnshire.
And while she said she feels 'lucky' they are in tier 2 and can open, she does feel conflicted about checking which tiers their customers come from.
"It's not our place to police it," she said. "We probably wouldn't turn people away; it is up to the individuals."
She added that their trade would decrease if people stick rigidly to the rules, and only come from tier 2 and with members of their own household.
"We won't be as busy as before lockdown, because the majority are from Rutland Heights [in Stamford] which is in tier 3."
The business has not been given any guidance from the Government beyond that available to the public.
Stephen added: "The main focus is to keep our staff and customers safe.
"The pub industry has spent millions in making their premises Covid-secure but they are always top of the list to be restricted in running their business, yet there is no scientific evidence that people are catching Covid in pubs and restaurants.
"For many people a visit to their local is essential for their mental wellbeing and by keeping pubs closed is having an effect on people's mental health."
After the rules were announced, the Exeter Arms in Barrowden lost more than 120 reservations from people who had booked tables in December with friends.
Landlord Mark Symes said: "We are trialling next week but the economics are against us. Some people who did have tables booked for six have cancelled four places but are still coming on their own.
"If we can’t reach at least 100 bookings for next week then the average income per booking won't bring in enough to cover wages.
"If that's the case I have no option but to close and furlough my staff, but for me and my wife it means another month of no income and January is just around the corner, which is the worst month in hospitality even when everything is OK."
Mark and his wife, Kate, have written to their MP, Alicia Kearns (Con), to express frustration with the new rules in a bid to receive financial support for the hospitality industry.
In the letter they said: "We went into lockdown in tier 1 with higher rates than now, we come out in tier 2.
"The review on December 16 is false hope, given that all other sectors can now operate but hospitality is closed. Is it really a genuine belief that rates will fall below what is already a very low rate in Rutland?"
The pair believe that because Rutland borders tier 3 Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, those areas would need to come down into tier 2 to have any chance of the county getting into tier 1.
They said: "Even if that did happen, it leaves just seven days' trade before Christmas - the horse will already have bolted. It will be too late to save our trade.
"Christmas 'bubbles' will allow large gatherings of family in an unsupervised, unsanitised home.
"They can fill up on supermarket booze while highly regulated hospitality sits empty.
"We were told that the national lockdown in November was necessary so the country could come out in December and enjoy Christmas.
"A visit to the pub on Christmas day for a drink to say 'hi' and wish everybody a merry Christmas is now denied."
They added that 'it is not a win' being put in tier 2 because the rules continue to restrict them.
Mark said their business lost £22,000 while closed in November and received £1,300 in compensation.
Owner of Orbis cocktail bar in Oakham, Jonathan Spencer, said he was trying to remain optimistic despite restrictions.
"We are being surrounded by tier 3 areas and our catchment stretches to Melton, Stamford and Cold Overton, but we can't accept the bookings.
"But how do we know where people are from? That's the question.
"I don't think we should be asking people to show identity documents. Police don't have that power, so I don't get how we are expected to do that."
He added that if it is blatantly obvious people aren't from the same household they most likely will be turned away.
Orbis is eligible for just over £900 in grant funds but this won't cover the losses caused by the new rules and operating at a reduced capacity.
"Overall hospitality has been so unfairly penalised - it's scary," said Jonathan.
"Personally being in tier 3 might be more beneficial. The grants are better and there's no expectation to open."
Jonathan has encouraged people in the area to book a table when Orbis reopens on Wednesday (December 2).
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