All in it together — publicanhoping to avoid second lockdown

Date: Friday 25th September 2020

PENRITH pubwatch chairman Mark Bowman hopes the measures outlined on Tuesday introducing a 10pm curfew for licensed premises will mean a second full lockdown can be avoided.

As well as having to close their doors earlier and provide table service only, now all staff and customers in retail and indoor hospitality venues will have to wear masks, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

Mr Bowman, who is owner of The Lounge and Warehouse in Penrith, said: “We are all in this together — everybody is doing their best and will continue to do their best. He said he would take a 10pm curfew in preference to being closed down again, as he fears that would be “the nail in the coffin”.

“It’s a little bit of a kick in the teeth when we are already struggling, but I feel it is doable. This (The Lounge) is as a safe an environment as it possibly can be. If we can keep trading at a level where break even can be struck to get us to the next stage, that would be success in my eyes, anything else is a bonus,” he said.

He said the new rules will hit the town’s weekend trade, but added that with nightclubs remaining closed, the late-night economy was cutting off at midnight in any event. However, in more normal times, those two hours would be the most profitable of the whole week.

He said being able to accommodate groups of up to six, rather than simply a single household, “gives us a chance”, as it means people can socialise at a safe social distance at a table as long as they stay in the their group and don’t “table hop”.

Thanks to the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offered a 50 per cent discount on food and soft drinks, this August at The Lounge was on a par with last August, said Mr Bowman.

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “The priority, of course, is keeping everyone safe. But with Boris Johnson warning that the latest restrictions could last another six months — and the imminent end of the furlough scheme — there are real concerns about the negative impact for businesses as they head into the quieter winter months.”

She said tourism businesses had already worked hard to adapt and ensure they can provide COVID-safe environments, by taking a wide range of precautions to not only protect staff and customers, but also to provide a strong visitor experience.