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Industry still on the brink as owners fear loss of pubs

"We will lose so many pubs." That is the view of Andy Simmonds, who owns The Ploughman, a popular pub in Werrington.
ploughman
The Ploughman in Werrington has reopened after nearly 37 weeks of closure

Hospitality has been brought to its knees due to the Covid pandemic - multiple lockdowns, social distancing measures and a lack of footfall and customer confidence have all been a contributing factor to the sector, with many restaurant owners struggling to keep their businesses running. 

Some even fear the worst in the new year. 

Trade picked up in summer 2020 following the Eat Out to Help Out scheme offered by the government. The national campaign encouraged people to dine out by offering a 50% discount when they ate in restaurants. 

Last year the Treasury said that more than £849m was claimed by businesses taking part in the scheme as they served more than 160m discounted meals. 

More than 49,000 restaurants, pubs and cafes took part in the scheme. In Peterborough, 124 restaurants took part, serving up 76,000 meals. The overall value of discount claimed in Peterborough was £372,000, with the average discount per meal coming in at £4.90. 

But despite Christmas being a peak time for restaurants, they are struggling to fill their booking registers. And the government's reintroduction of measures amid rising concerns of a new variant across the UK is "not helping the businesses", they say.

From today face coverings are again compulsory in England in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers and public transport, unless people are exempt.  

Although hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants are not affected, businesses say they have received dozens of cancellations in the last two days following Boris Johnson’s announcement. 

house of feast 1Beer garden at the House of Feasts

Owner and chef at The House of Feasts in Eye, Damian Wawrzyniak took to Twitter to express his disappointment, saying: “We are not even 48 hours from Boris Johnson['s] comments regarding new restrictions of Omicron and over 20 tables have cancelled their bookings due to [the] new announcement. We barely survived lockdown and we won't be able to take another hit.” 

He added: “We will continue to operate online with nationwide deliveries but I only hope Christmas trade will be as planned. I have learnt [sic] a lot during lockdown but Christmas is crucial for all [of the] hospitality sector! Everyone was waiting for it since summer, we need normal trade.” 

 

Andy Simmonds at the Ploughman reopened in April after 37 weeks of closure but times "continue to be challenging for him and the team", he said. He is urging the government to step up their support for the industry.

Trade at his pub was only “a third” of what it used to be pre-pandemic, he said.

Speaking to Peterborough Matters, Simmonds said: “People have been cautious - they don’t come out of their house that much. Social distancing has impacted this a lot - they don’t want to sit in close proximity with people. 

“We have been operating at a third of our capacity compared to pre-pandemic. But we have to pay full business rates and rent despite not making enough money. 

"I think we are going to get Christmas in some form this year, but we don’t how that will be or how that will look. Going into January, we might look at stricter restrictions if this variant still lingers. 

“I spoke to the MP [Paul Bristow] as well and outlined the financial strains put on hospitality which we are still facing. 

“People are staying at home drinking, having parties.  

“We are not back at full capacity. If it’s not paid for by the community then it’s going to be gone forever. Use it or lose it.

“We are waiting for official guidance but I think we are looking at Covid passports as a rule. If it’s made a law, I would have to support it. 

“But I think it’s ridiculous. It’s just another hassle for people wanting to go to the pub. I think it’s a waste of time.  

“They are making it tougher and tougher. That substantial meal the government introduced - what an absolute joke that was. 

“The Track and Trace – look at how much money they spent and look what happened with that?

“They need to step in and protect us. We are struggling to make our rent and business rates and help us with our landlords. 

“I pay £22,000 a year for business rates. And I am only making a third of what I was making pre-pandemic. My business is struggling. We need them to quash these rates. Pubs are struggling, we need all the help we can get. 

“One chap I was speaking to lost his business due to Covid and [has] now lost his house. This is where we need them [the government] to step in. Evictions etc due to not making money or rent should be suspended like it was earlier. 

"They need to protect us as we are paying the ultimate price and if they don’t, then by a blink of an eye, we will lose so many pubs. We will see so many pubs close and gone forever because of their failure."


The pandemic has been hard for a lot industries but hospitality has been one hit the hardest. In Peterborough, popular restaurants and cafes have shut during the pandemic. Bill's in Cathedral Square closed due to the restrictions. But despite the board and furniture still on site, there has not been a single word in the last two years to suggest if it might reopen. 

Prevost in Priestgate shut a few months ago and relocated to Wansford. The unit has now been replaced by another restaurant.

Le Petit Four on Bridge Street, a popular cafe, also closed its doors and the unit is yet to be replaced. Handmade Burger Co in the Westgate Arcade has been shut for nearly two years or more with no news of a replacement.

Some cafes, restaurants and pubs have invested money and effort to make their venue Covid-safe and weather-proof by setting up outdoor dining including The Ploughman, Bean Around Cafe, the Lightbox, House of Feasts and Banyan Tree, among others. 

But some of them feel if things do not settle down in the new year, they might lose their business.