Partners Lauren Marsh and Kane Baker are among the thousands of people working in Greater Manchester’s hospitality industry who are now adjusting to the level 3 restrictions that came into effect today.
To add to the confusion, their pub in Lowton, near Wigan, is just yards from the border with Cheshire and Merseyside.
“We are in a no man’s land here,” Ms. Marsh said.
“Our address is under Warrington, which is level 2, but our pub is licensed at Wigan Council, which is level 3.
“A mile down the road and it’s completely different. ”
Warrington Council revealed yesterday that it has started talks with the government to enter Level 3 – and since then it has been confirmed that the area will enter Level 3 restrictions next week.
However, the level 2 restrictions will remain in place this weekend.
Taking control of a pub in the midst of a pandemic was a risk, but the couple, both in their mid-20s, are up to the challenge.
Hospitality businesses such as theirs are still allowed to serve alcoholic beverages to customers, but only as long as they are accompanied by a “hearty meal”.
In order to comply with the new rules, they have created a new bar menu, which includes tapas, curry and chili dishes.
Although around 70% of the pub’s revenue already comes from food, the couple admit to being slightly worried about the impact the new rules could have.
“It’s there in the back of your mind with what’s going on,” explained Baker, 25.
“A lot of pubs around us are closing. They don’t get a lot of visitors for dinner although we are known for our food.
“For them, it is more advantageous to pay the leave of their staff. ”
They believe companies like theirs have been unfairly penalized by the government.
Mr. Baker explained, “Hospitality businesses probably make up about a third of the country’s economy.
“The way they continue to penalize us is just plain wrong. ”
“It’s very confusing,” Ms. Marsh added.
“Trying to get all the rules out to customers and your staff, they get mad at you when you try to stick to all of these different rules that change all the time.
“It’s hard to stay on top.
“We are in Greater Manchester, but we are a completely different establishment than a bar in Manchester city center.
“I think they should be more selective. ”
The pub is a few yards from the border with Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, where level 3 restrictions have been in place for over a week.
Ms Marsh says it has been nearly impossible to control people crossing the border to visit the pub.
Nearby Warrington pubs are only subject to Level 2 rules so far, and there are fears that Greater Manchester drinkers may descend on the area this weekend.
However, Ms Marsh and Mr Baker are hopeful that the adjustments they’ve made will be enough to keep customers coming back.
Ms. Marsh said, “We have a lot of repeat customers who come every day, at the same times, for the same drinks.
“There is always concern that customers will just do the trick, but you should do everything possible to bring this custom into your establishment.
“We have also just created two outdoor catering modules, but it is obvious that outdoor meals are now reserved for level 3.”
The difficulties in ensuring that all customers obey the rules also extend to the domestic mix.
Under level 3 restrictions, people are not allowed to meet other people outside of their home / supportive bubble in a private garden “or in most outdoor public places”, including beer gardens .
“You can’t prove it unless you apply for every form of identity,” Ms. Marsh said.
“With the number of people walking through the door, it’s ridiculous to try to stay in the know.
“We just take our word for it that they’re family, really. ”
While acknowledging that there will be difficulties over the next few months, Ms Marsh and Mr Baker say they are “confident” to come out on the other side.
Reservations continue to come “hard and fast”, even after the restrictions were announced on Tuesday.
Mr Baker added: “They say fortune favors the bold, so hopefully if we crack and people walk through the door, we will be successful.
“If we can overcome this, we can overcome anything. “
Just over a mile southwest at The Plow Inn, that’s another story.
Andrew Swift is the owner of the pub, which reports to Warrington and is therefore subject to level 2 restrictions.
However, the pub is sandwiched between Greater Manchester and Merseyside and Mr Swift says he expects an ‘influx of people’ this weekend as residents in neighboring areas try to get around the restrictions.
“I think we’re going to be beaten,” Mr Swift said.
“We’re right in the middle of Manchester and Liverpool and there aren’t many other pubs here.
“If you think about the size of Greater Manchester and Liverpool, we’re just a little bit in the middle. It’s crazy.
“Either way, a lot of people come from these areas, you can see it by their accents.
“Friday night will be the test. ”
Mr Swift says he’s not worried about the prospect of people from Level 3 areas going down to his pub, but anticipates he will have to turn people back.
“We’re just a little pub,” he says.
“We can only accommodate 40 people at most with social distancing. ”
Mr Swift says he will likely end up temporarily shutting down the pub.
After a few difficult months during the first foreclosure, business started to pick up at The Plow Inn after it reopened in early July.
However, that all changed when new rules came into effect, Mr Swift said.
He said: “Before everyone had to wear masks, we were really busy. When they introduced these restrictions, it deteriorated.
“We lost about 50 to 60% of the trade in three weeks.
“A lot of customers don’t come. We have a lot of older people here and they don’t want to go into a confined environment.
“A lot of ads will struggle. “