Lifting of remaining Covid restrictions will be "important step" for recovery of Sheffield's hospitality sector
People working within Sheffield’s hospitality industry have reacted to the news that the majority of remaining coronavirus restrictions are set to be lifted in less than a fortnight.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm in a briefing tonight that compulsory face masks, social distancing, table service and check-ins at venues will be scrapped on July 19, as part of the fourth and final stage of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Nightclubs, which have been closed since March last year, are also set to be given the go-ahead to reopen, as the successful vaccination programme continues.
The scheduled easing of restrictions comes as the number of confirmed and suspected Covid cases with the Delta variant has exceeded 161,000, but Mr Johnson said people must “exercise judgement” and “learn to live with the virus.”
Liz Aspden is the landlady of the Harlequin pub on Nursery Street in the city centre and said she believes the lifting of the remaining restrictions will be an “important step for the recovery of the hospitality sector.”
“The last phase has been okay for us, groups of six are big enough for most people to enjoy a trip to the pub, and table service has actually been quite pleasant from a service point of view.
"Having said that, there are a still a few people who don't think that table service gives them a proper pub experience so have been staying away - lots of people do enjoy drinking at the bar, and the additional social interactions that that encourages,” she said.
Ms Aspden said the removal of restrictions will also allow businesses to plan with additional confidence too, because it means they can “start to gradually re-introduce things like quiz nights, food service which have not been viable with social distancing and table service.
She continued: “Lots of businesses in hospitality will have taken on significant amounts of debt over the past 15 months just to be able to stay open, and the lifting of restrictions is an important step towards starting to manage that, and paying it back. Fingers crossed that things carry on improving over the next few months.”
Co-owner of craft beer bar Two Thirds Beer Co, which is based on Abbeydale Road, Ben Stubbs said he “100 per cent” welcomed the lifting of restrictions.
“As an industry, we really have suffered more than most and Boris’s long awaited announcement will be met with a huge sigh of relief amongst hospitality,” said Ben.
He added: “The safety of both our staff and customers has been absolutely paramount since the start of the pandemic, and we’ve continued to operate in a Covid-secure manner, following the ever changing guidance throughout the last 18 months.
"But with the vast majority of the population now vaccinated, I personally think it really is now time to learn to live with covid, and remove all of these burdening restrictions on our lives.”
"It’s clear the vaccine has broken the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths and I truly believe that if we don’t unlock now, we never will.
Nick Simmonite is chairman of UNIGHT, a not-for-profit organisation that represents Sheffield's night-time community, and said he thought those within the city’s hospitality industry will welcome the removal of the majority of remaining restictions.
He said: “It will mean that we might get to break even...the hospitality industry has tried to operate with reduced capacity; extra staffing costs and it’s meant that it has become impossible for some venues to break even.”
Mr Simmonite said he had faith in the city’s Public Health team, and did not think they would allow Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival to join the third phase of the Government’s Events Research Programme if there were serious concerns about the link between the rise in the number of Delta cases and hospital admissions.
He continued by saying that the city’s nightclubs, which have been closed since March last year, are “chomping at the bit” to reopen, and were looking forward to safely welcoming people back.