But Circus Tavern boss Barry Hayes said he believed he now had no choice but to reopen – to try and start paying Star Pubs owners a backdated £ 71,000 rent bill. and Bars.
Barry had planned to remain closed until the next stage of easing the lockdown, when social distancing rules were to be removed indoors on June 21.
But with that date now pushed back a month to July 19, he says he has had no choice but to reopen.
The current rules mean that the absolute maximum number of patrons Barry can take inside the pub’s two tiny rooms is 18.
Barry said: “We had to open because I have so much trouble with landlords that they demand full backdated rent when the pandemic starts.
“I had a Zoom meeting with one of the credit checkers, I lifted the computer and I said ‘look at the size of the pub, look at the size of the rooms.’
‘She said if we could pay £ 30,000 by the end of June they would give me three months rent free and put in place a payment plan to pay the rest but it’s still £ 40,000.
“I have no choice but to open because I am falling more and more behind with the rent.
“But the weekends are not far from where they used to be, and I understand that, since we have an older clientele, many still don’t have the confidence to go out.
“I have the impression that everything is against me. The stress of knowing that I have £ 71,000 in rent doesn’t help.
“With the numbers I can get here, I only took around £ 150 a day – it’s not even worth opening, but I have to at least try to open or I’ll sink.
“I have to pay £ 71,000 before I can even start making any money… I feel like I’m whipping a dead horse here?” “
Barry has done his best to accommodate social distancing rules inside the tiny Portland Street premises – even getting some plexiglass screens that he can pull in and out on a clothesline as needed to separate groups.
Barry said: “The police said it was ingenious when they came in to check on what we were doing and saw it. “
But there is still the central problem that it cannot serve the volume of customers required to make a profit. Before Covid, he would expect to serve around 45 people inside the pub.
“I think the government needs to intervene but I don’t see that going to happen.
“Don’t get me wrong, I received the government grant and it covered me for the last 15 months and allowed me to do a refurbishment including a £ 12,000 rewiring which was needed.
“But I feel like everything has turned against me. I lost my best friend to Covid he told me ‘I don’t know anyone who was as unlucky as you’ and then five days later he died. “
Barry, who has been running the pub for 11 years, decided to enter into a Market Rent Only rental agreement with Star Pubs in February 2020. Such agreements allow pub managers to buy their own beer, which, in theory, is theirs. lets make more than a profit.
But that was without counting on a global pandemic closing the pub a month later.
The deal meant he had seen his rent drop from £ 750 per week to £ 1,281 per week.
“I signed a new MRO lease in February, which means I pay higher rent, but in theory that would help me because I can buy my beer a lot cheaper,” he says.
“I signed the new lease in February, but the pandemic struck in March.
“I understand that we are all in a bad situation but Almighty Christ, join me halfway. “
A spokesperson for Star Pubs and Bars owners said: ‘We have supported our pubs throughout the pandemic with substantial rent cuts totaling £ 62million.
“We understand the pressure ads are under and do our best to help them.
“The pubs that have chosen to operate their pubs on a market lease only basis represent a tiny proportion of the pubs in our domain.
“Our arrangement with them is that of a conventional business owner as they have chosen to take a greater risk than the rented and rented pubs which receive more support from us.
“We know from benchmarking that the support we’ve put in place for Market Rent Only leases goes beyond that of other business owners. “
Barry remains determined to make the most of the situation and says punters can expect the same huge reception inside the pub.
He said: “It’s a family pub and we take care of the people. That’s why we have the slogan on the outside of the facade to say the smallest bar in Europe, the biggest welcome in the world.
“People have a good time when they come to see us. I try to make the best of a bad situation and I know there are people in a worse situation than me.
“People have died, people owe millions of pounds. At least we’re still here. “
But Barry is also worried about the new government advice that encourages people not to travel to Manchester so much to try and fight the Delta variant.
He said, “People don’t come to town that much, you can see that. People stay away because they are told to do so for the next four weeks.
“Even when England played on the weekend we only had five people. “
He adds: “People have said why I wouldn’t do a GoFundMe page but I’m too proud for that – I feel like they won then.
“Surely there is a place where we can meet halfway through the negotiations. “
The Circus opens from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays during current measurements, and until 11 p.m. on weekends