Sheffield pub owners forced to ‘dip into retirement savings’ and face a Christmas closed

Sheffield publicans have been left ‘heartbroken’ by the news South Yorkshire will enter Tier 3 lockdown, forcing them to remain closed.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 12:38 pm

Pubs, cafes and restaurants under the highest tier of restrictions must stay shut other than for takeaways and deliveries when the national lockdown ends next Wednesday, December 2, while pubs in Tier 2 areas including London can open provided they serve substantial meals.

At the Blue Ball Inn in Worrall, Sheffield, Emma Shepherd, who runs the pub with her husband Carl, said: “My heart is breaking with the realisation that we may not be opening our lovely little pub this Christmas. We feel completely lost (but not defeated).”

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Emma Shepherd, who runs the Blue Ball Inn in Worrall, Sheffield, with her husband Carl, said her 'heart was breaking' at the realisation they would probably not be able to open this Christmas

The 50-year-old told how they had been forced to dip into their retirement savings due to the coronavirus pandemic and claimed the tiered lockdown system ‘makes no sense’, though even under Tier 2 as a wet-led pub they would have remained closed.

“My personal view is that we need to make people take responsibility and if you’re elderly or or in any of the vulnerable groups you should stay away from pubs or other places where there are lots of people for now,” she said.

"It’s difficult because it’s about keeping people safe, but the amount of businesses that are going to go pop is scary.”

Ms Shepherd said they were in a relatively fortunate position and praised Admiral Taverns, which has waived commercial rents, and Sheffield Council, which she said had done a great job of helping them access the grants available.

Trippets Lounge Bar co-owner Debbie Shaw said the hospitality sector had been 'decimated'

She also thanked members of the community for their ‘amazing’ support throughout the crisis.

But she said she felt for those pubs and other businesses who had started the pandemic in debt and for city centre pubs, which she said had been particularly hard hit.

At Trippets Lounge Bar in Sheffield city centre, co-owner Debbie Shaw said she ‘cannot begin to explain how we feel’ after yesterday’s announcement, which meant they had been forced to cancel numerous events planned for December, including a wedding, tasting evenings and jazz brunches.

“Understanding the whole world is at the mercy of this virus, it is hard to understand the logic that permits me to have my eyebrows dyed yet I’m unable to carry a plate to your table,” she added.

"There has to be more financial support for the sector. We cannot survive on the £500 a week currently given.”

Ms Shaw also praised the support from customers but was scathing when it came to the Government’s treatment of pubs and restaurants since the pandemic began.

“The hospitality sector has been decimated. The restrictions placed upon us are unfair. Statistics have shown that we provide one of the safest environments to visit. Like others, we have spent hundreds of pounds to provide a Covid secure venue. We have been inspected by licensing and passed with flying colours,” she said.

“We have implemented Track & Trace, everyone must be masked, use sanitiser, remain at distanced tables and leave at 10pm (who knew Covid could tell the time).

“In contrast, there is no T&T or sanitiser on public transport, no T&T in shops (and very little distancing now).”

The British Beer & Pub Association this week claimed that more than 30,000 pubs in England would either be forced to remain closed or be rendered unviable due to the new restrictions.

Its chief executive, Emma McClarkin, said: “With 99 per cent of the country under tighter Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions, there will be carnage unless the Government acts immediately.

"Pubs face full closure if they are drinks led or in Tier 3. We need the Government to recognise the impact of these restrictions and urgently provide more financial support.”

Pete Harpham, director of Sheffield cocktail bar Kettle Black, tweeted following the Tier 3 announcement: “Something about this absolutely stinks. Everything is allowed to open but the socially distanced and safe environment bars and restaurants. But....… We’ll be back (at some point)!!!”

The Wildcard Bar & Grill on Ecclesall Road said it was ‘absolutely heartbroken’ by the latest government announcement but added ‘we hope for better news very soon’.

And The Beer House questioned the science behind the tiering decisions before suggesting how the Government could help the sector by rethinking its rules for the Christmas period, when households will be allowed to mix.

“Go with me on this. Instead of being allowed to mix in households over Xmas you could only meet in a hospitality venue with track and trace, ventilation, masks, table service and sanitizer stations sat socially distanced apart managed by staff... would that not be safer? And could save an industry,” it tweeted.

Public bar in Sheffield city centre struck a positive note, meanwhile, tweeting: “Hang in there Sheffield businesses. We’ll get through this and I’m convinced that this city will support its amazing makers, creators and innovators like never before. It’s what makes this city great!”

The tiering restrictions, under which different households in Tier 3 are also banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, are due to be reviewed by December 16, meaning Sheffield could be placed in a lower tier before Christmas if the coronavirus infection rate continues to fall as it has done during the national lockdown.

While pubs, restaurants and cafes in South Yorkshire must remain closed at least until then, non-essential shops in all tiers have been allowed to reopen, along with gyms and hairdressers.