South East London pubs ‘wronged’ because blamed for rising coronavirus cases, says Real Ale Campaign boss

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By Lachlan Leeming, local democracy journalistBoris Johnson’s new closing time of 10 p.m. will further hamper pubs already on their knees, the head of an industry advocacy group has warned, saying further restrictions could see more businesses shutting down for good.

Anna Lancefield, president of the south-east London branch of advocacy group Campaign For Real Ale, added that many in the industry felt “aggrieved” that pubs “were accused” of a number of coronavirus cases.

It comes after the Prime Minister officially announced on Tuesday a series of new measures to tackle rising levels of Covid-19, including a 10 p.m. closing time for pubs and restaurants.

All hotel workers will also be required to wear a face mask, while businesses will be required to only offer table service.

Ms Lancefield said the ads had left pub managers worried about the future.

She said: “(A lot) of people in the ad industry already feel sorry that ads are being blamed for an increase in cases, given the precautions they are taking.

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

She cited the case of The Greenwich Union, which closed in July after 19 years in business, as one of the pubs in south-east London that had sunk in the wake of the pandemic.

She added that many more had yet to reopen since the government lifted restrictions on July 4 and it was unclear whether they would ever reopen.

She said: “A lot of the pubs I have returned to have said they are surviving rather than thriving, so any further restrictions will not be welcome.”

Another blow that could cripple pub revenue streams further is another blow completely out of the hands of the government – looming winter.

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

“Pubs that have been heavily reliant on customers using their outdoor space over the summer will also start to suffer,” she said.

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

Amid the gloom, there were some positive signs, Ms Lancefield said – such as many pubs that have switched to sales since they were forced to close in March.

“(It’s) hopefully if people want to keep drinking after 10pm, they’ll buy take-out in their neighborhood rather than at the supermarket,” she said.

Nonetheless, Ms Lancefield said uncertain times remained to come for the iconic UK hotel sector.

“Further restrictions now come at a bad time – and there is always a chance that more measures may be imposed if these latest measures do not bring the numbers down significantly,” she said.

Top photo: The chairwoman of the south-east London branch of advocacy group Campaign For Real Ale says pubs feel unfairly blamed for an increase in cases of the virus


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