Stockport in Tier 2 – Reaction

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October the 14th. The date on which Usher was born in 1978, the channel Dave launched on Freeview in 2007, and when Felix Baumgartner hurtled towards the Earth from a balloon in space in 2012. Nothing as exciting on this particular date in 2020, although it’s certainly an important one, as Stockport is placed in Tier 2 under the latest Coronavirus restrictions.

For now, our pubs and bars can remain open. In places like Liverpool, under Tier 3, it’s a very different story, with pubs and bars having to close their doors immediately. As with the rest of the UK, hospitality venues in Stockport can remain open, but they still have to close their doors by 10pm each night, which continues to cause controversy as there doesn’t appear to be any scientific reason behind this. We can still enjoy a pint or two for now, though.

Following the latest announcement from the government, The Viaduct spoke to a number of hospitality venues across Stockport for their reaction.

Martin Hope
Owner – The Hope Inn, Heaton Norris

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
I have mixed emotions to the decision to be honest. Last time no one was prepared and it was a proper mind melt, resulting in pubs having a lot of waste beer. Because I brew my own too, I had more waste than most. With this in mind I’d mentally and physically prepared this time. I wasn’t brewing anywhere near as much as I was fully expecting to be shut to be honest, so now it’s like, “oh okay, better get my head back in the game” if that makes sense.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
I can’t really answer that clearly, but it certainly wouldn’t have been good. I know the government have said they would help again, but it’s debatable just how much, and we all still have bills to pay.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
We’ve been doing okay since opening up again. Obviously not the same as before, but enough to keep our heads above water. Fortunately, we have a lot of very supportive regulars, but having said that there are clearly a lot of regulars still staying away as they obviously don’t feel safe, or they have to think of their own businesses if they’re self-employed.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
Overall, I have to say the way the hospitality industry has been treated is disgusting. We are being used as scapegoats as the government needs to be seen to be doing something, but they’re going to put so many businesses under too much pressure which will inevitably see a lot go bust. Plus, the knock-on effect is massive. It’s like dominoes – if pubs close then suppliers are in jeopardy, like small brewers, wholesalers etc. Not to mention all of the staff redundancies. I honestly don’t think the government realises the potential scale of this, not just here but all around the world.

Mark Tavini
Owner – The Wycliffe Hotel, Edgeley

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
Very pleased under the circumstances.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
Not well, but our staff would fare worse.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
The restaurant side of things has been okay. It can’t be as busy as it was before, but we have managed. The hotel has struggled due to the lack of businessmen and women travelling for work. Things are very poor at the moment.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
From our point of view, we would have gone bust if it had not been for their help. Instead, we live to fight another day. However, if we do survive, it will be a close call. But the government’s help has been good for us.

Alan Gent
Owner – The Petersgate Tap, Stockport

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
We’re obviously glad that we can stay open, but we’re not grateful; we don’t see hospitality as the reason for the present situation and many people in our industry rightly see us as being the scapegoats for failed government policy.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
As we have a private landlord we’d still have to pay the rent, so it wouldn’t have been as easy for us. However, during full lockdown, we operated as a takeaway and bottle shop and that has since been embedded into the business as a further income stream. We would have had to rely on that again. Fortunately, we have a fantastic family of Tap regulars who supported us during lockdown and I’m sure would do the same again.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
It’s very challenging for us and everyone. The curfew, which is widely discredited, loses us 90 minutes trade every day we’re open. On top of this, supermarkets are increasingly stocking more “craft ” beers at knockdown prices without the need to close at 22:00, their staff aren’t required to wear masks etc etc. It’s just not a level playing field.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
The government generally has been terrible, missing every opportunity or making decisions based on ideology rather than pragmatism. Yes, the grants were useful during full lockdown, but generally the government stance of centralised decision making without consulting local decision makers has meant a lack of considered decisions in favour of blanket – and biased – decisions. (How many Tory constituencies are in lockdown?).

Martin Healy
Owner – The Good Rebel, Stockport

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
Joy was the overriding feeling. I’ve spent the last two weeks preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I’d been running my stock down and had planned to extend our cocktail delivery service from two days a week to four days a week to keep money coming in whilst we were potentially closed, but luckily we can keep on going. I know a lot of traders would rather be locked down than trading with the curfew as they are finding it really tough at the moment, but I’m very happy we’re still open and trading. It’s been frustrating watching the government briefing The Times before any of our local leaders or ourselves.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
We’d have survived, carrying on with our cocktail delivery service which was very popular during the national lockdown. Obviously sales would have dropped considerably and we’d have been dependent on government support as I’d have had to furlough all my team again. However, the two thirds pay from the government wouldn’t have been enough to support my hard working team so I’m glad Andy Burnham has been fighting for more support for hospitality which is such a massive economy for Greater Manchester. In any difficult situation you have two choices: either be a victim, or be a fighter and take those obstacles head on. We had the obstacle of not being able to open but we adapted and launched our cocktail delivery service during lockdown which was, and still is, a roaring success. We then had the obstacle of being able to reopen but with strict conditions in place, but we adapted and now operate first class table service for all our guests to enjoy, and we’ve won over an army of new guests who love how we look after them. We’d have always found a way to survive, regardless of what the government announced.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
Given the circumstances, we were actually doing okay, more than breaking even. However, the curfew has curtailed our sales and made life a lot more difficult. Since reopening we are operating at a third capacity of what we were prior to lockdown. The bar was designed to accommodate a lot of vertical drinkers, to maximise the sales on Friday and Saturday nights, so we’ve obviously lost this lucrative aspect of trade. However, our full table service has added a new dynamic to the bar, which has definitely seen a more enjoyable experience for guests and an increase in spend per head. We don’t have any QR code ordering system or anything like that, it’s been good old fashioned waiter table service which has helped us build a better rapport with guests, who in turn have enjoyed being properly looked after with that human contact aspect, rather than ordering through an app.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
Where to start! I think from start to finish there has been a very unclear scattergun approach from the government without consultation of industry experts, the likes of Sacha Lord etc. There has always been a bit of stigma in this country in regards to working in hospitality as it isn’t always viewed as a profession as it is in other countries, with the often condescending line “when are you going to get a proper job?” regularly thrown at bar staff and waiters, even though attitudes have got better over the last few years. I get the feeling that this sort of stance is being perpetuated through government policy by not taking us seriously and almost scapegoating us. For example, every premises license (which every establishment needs to serve alcohol) in the country isn’t mandated by the time you have to get people out of the building by, as is the case with the 10pm curfew, but it’s mandated by a set time you can serve alcohol until, so we can then allow for a reasonable and responsible drinking up time and have a gradual dispersal of people at the end of the night, which isn’t being achieved by the 10pm curfew. The Licensing Act 2003 has four very clear licensable objectives that we need to follow: The Prevention of Crime and Disorder, Public Safety, The Prevention of Children from Harm, and The Prevention of Public Nuisance. The 10pm curfew is creating issues with public safety due to kicking everybody out at the same time. Social distancing isn’t happening when everyone is on the street together, but this could easily be remedied with a 10pm cut-off time for service of alcohol and then punters can disperse in an orderly fashion over the next hour, but the government won’t even consider this. We have been keen supporters of the ‘Cancel the Curfew’ campaign as it is providing no solutions and just more problems. Licensed premises are some of the most Covid secure public spaces in the country. It is literally my job to enforce that people follow the rules or they are ejected from the venue, which you don’t have in many other settings. If we can serve later, it prevents people piling into other people’s houses or congregating in the street, and more effectively stop the spread, whilst also enabling the businesses to survive which a lot of us are struggling to do at the moment.

Alex Mercogliano
Manager – The Italian, Romiley

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
Definitely good news for us and hospitality in Stockport for the time being. Almost everyone I had spoken to, including people who said they were “in the know”, said pubs, bars and restaurants would be closing so it was brilliant to see different.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
During the previous lockdown we converted our restaurant to a home delivery and takeaway collection service and it really kept us going. The logistics of it at first were a complete shock to us – we actually started on Mother’s Day weekend, one of our busiest weekends of the year – but after the first couple of weeks we found it easy. In the case of Greater Manchester entering Tier 3 we would close to the public as we did in March and offer a takeaway service again, with home delivery and collection. I think the idea of a good takeaway to look forward to at the end of the week kept a lot of people going through the previous lockdown, especially when there wasn’t really any good news at the time.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
It’s been very different for us. Mainly because our capacity has been cut by over a third and the tables are more spread out. We are managing bookings so we don’t have too many people arriving all at once, which means the restaurant hasn’t been full in months. We have kept up the home delivery service after reopening though, so this keeps the kitchen busy and makes up for how quiet it is in the restaurant.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
I think on the whole their support to businesses during the previous lockdown has been good. There was a grant back in April which was a huge help in staying open, plus the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August. We were fortunate enough not to have to furlough any of our staff as we needed them in the restaurant over the lockdown but with staff wages usually being the biggest expenditure for a business it was good that the government furlough was an option for all. The only thing missing from the government was a lack of clarity, and now there are just so many mixed messages and contradictory statements from them. I don’t think at all that hospitality is the reason for the spike at all, not if you go to any of the restaurants and pubs across Stockport and see the public safety measures all businesses have worked hard to put in place.

Amy Cutler
Marketing Manager – The Chestergate, Stockport

What’s your reaction to the announcement that Stockport has been placed in Tier 2, which means pubs and bars can remain open?
It was a welcome announcement as we really don’t want to close. We have done everything to ensure our pub is Covid secure and we feel to close us down would be unfair. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming, community pub and many of our customers are single people, living alone who look forward to coming to The Chestergate to escape loneliness that they may be experiencing in their lives.

If Stockport had been placed in Tier 3, how would your business have fared if it was forced to close?
Not very well. The package that the government have announced for hospitality venues in Tier 3 isn’t sufficient enough to pay all our bills that still need paying even though our doors are closed. Equally, the lack of any support in Tier 2 is disgraceful. The hospitality sector is taking the pain of reduced numbers and trading hours, without reduced costs. To give no financial support for this means that in effect, small businesses are paying the shortfall. We strongly believe the government should be picking up the bill, given that we are helping their plans by staying closed. Furthermore, Rishi Sunak stated that the support for closed pubs was being increased to “up to £3,000”. For a lot of pubs, including ourselves, this figure is actually £2,000 as it is based on business rates.

How has it been running your business since reopening after the main lockdown this year?
It has been unbelievably difficult. We have had to implement so many different rules from the beginning that have constantly changed over the last couple of months. Greater Manchester was the first place to only allow single households in the pub and we found this extremely difficult to manage with little help or guidance from the government. The pub has gone from being an exciting and fun place to one where people come and are constantly told what they can and can’t do because of all the things we have had to implement. Our team has been amazing and we have kept positive but honestly, it has been so hard.

What are your thoughts on the government’s support for the hospitality industry this year?
In the beginning, the support that was in place, such as the furlough scheme and the grants, was brilliant. However, the new support that the Chancellor has announced recently for those businesses having to close doesn’t come close to what we actually need in terms of financial support. In addition to this, the 10pm curfew has absolutely killed the hospitality industry and there has been no support given to venues for all their lost sales.

The Viaduct would like to thank all of the above for taking the time to speak to us. With Stockport remaining in Tier 2 for now, hospitality venues across the town still need your support more than ever. So please continue to support them if you can. We’ll all miss them when they’re gone. The editor of The Viaduct had a few pints at The Armoury watching Stockport County on Saturday afternoon, and then a few more beers and some delightful halloumi dippers at The Three Bears in Hazel Grove, so he’s doing his bit to help. If we all do the same, and continue to support our local venues in Stockport, hopefully there won’t be any further closures, having already lost Bredbury Hall this week.


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