South-east London pubs “aggrieved” that they’re being blamed for increase in cases of coronavirus, says Campaign for Real Ale boss

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

Boris Johnson’s new 10pm closing time will further hobble pubs already on their knees, the head of an industry advocacy group has warned, saying new restrictions could see more businesses permanently close their doors.

Anna Lancefield, the chairwoman of the South-east London branch of independent voluntary consumers’ group the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), added many in the sector felt “aggrieved” that pubs were “getting the blame” for a boom in coronavirus case numbers.

It comes after the Prime Minister formally announced on Tuesday a raft of new measures to combat rising levels of Covid-19, including a 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants.

All hospitality employees will also be required to wear a face mask, while businesses will be forced to only offer table service.

Ms Lancefield said the announcements had left pub managers anxious about the future.

She said: “(Many) people in the pub industry already feel aggrieved that pubs are getting the blame for an increase in cases, given the precautions they’re taking.

“(Tuesday) won’t have helped that and there will certainly be apprehension about what might be yet to come.”

She cited the case of The Greenwich Union, which shut its doors in July after 19 years of operation, as one of the South-east London pubs which had gone under as a result of the pandemic.

She added many others were yet to reopen since the Government lifted restrictions on July 4, and that it was unclear whether they will ever open again.

She said: “Many of the pubs I’ve been back into have said they’re surviving, rather than thriving, so any additional restriction is going to be unwelcome.”

Another blow which could further cripple income streams for pubs is one completely out of the hands of government – the impending winter.

“The other factor that won’t help is that the weather is now turning, so pubs that have been able to make good use of their outside space are likely to see a drop-off in business anyway.

“Pubs which have been heavily reliant on customers using their outside space over the summer will also now begin to suffer,” she said.

The requirement to provide table service will be another headache, she said, adding that much depended on the layout of the pub, the skills of staff and the willingness of customers to embrace technology such as using phone apps to order their drinks.

Amid the gloom, there was some positive signs Ms Lancefield said – such as many pubs pivoting to off-sales since they were forced to close in March.

“(It’s) to be hoped that if people do want to carry on drinking after 10pm they’ll buy take-outs from their local rather than the supermarket,” she said.

Nonetheless, Ms Lancefield said uncertain times remained ahead for England’s iconic hospitality sector.

“Additional restrictions now are coming at a bad time – and there’s always the chance that further measures could be imposed if these latest moves don’t bring the figures down significantly,” she said.

Pictured top: The chairwoman of the South-east London branch of advocacy group the Campaign For Real Ale says pubs feel they are being unfairly blamed for a rise in virus cases

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