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Return to tougher Tier system brings limited cheer for hospitality

Published:  24 November, 2020

The news yesterday (23 November) that England will return to a three-tier system post lockdown has highlighted the ongoing struggle faced by pubs, bars and restaurants.

In a widely trailed announcement, government laid out plans for a revised – and harsher – version of the three-tier restrictions which will be applied to on-trade operators after 2 December, with curbs expected to remain in place until spring 2021.

Regions placed under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions will be especially hard hit, with wet-only establishments unable to open their doors, and all likely to suffer diminished custom at what should be the busiest month of the year.

While both Tier 1 and Tier 2 restrictions will see an extension of curfew to include a ‘drinking up time’ from 10pm-11pm, bringing some relief, under Tier 2, restaurants and pubs serving “substantial meals” will be allowed to open, but only serving household groups, seated at tables.

Under Tier 3, meanwhile, all establishments will be allowed takeaway only service, unlike the previous Tier 3 restrictions, which saw them remain open to serve seated household groups.

“It will come as a relief to some of the hospitality sector – and their suppliers – that we’ll see a partial opening up of business in the run up to Christmas,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA).

“However, with tougher tier restrictions likely to be in place it will still mean many pubs bars and restaurants will remain closed. It’s sensible that those allowed to open will have curfews extended.”

He added: “For those businesses who will be forced to stay closed after investing their dwindling resources to ensure they can trade safely, this could sadly be the final nail in the coffin. Tiers two and three will both be more restrictive and reduce business’ chances of survival. It’s that stark.”

The WSTA joined industry voices including UK Hospitality, The Society of Independent Brewers and others, in urging government to continue the financial support for hospitality and its suppliers “at least the same level” until the pandemic is over.

In response to the new tier system, UK Hospitality tweeted: "Goverment believes the new tighter tier system is needed in order to save Christmas. In reality, they are killing Christmas & beyond for businesses. Many will be forced to close & for some without the right level of financial support it will be permanent." 

Several northern cities and regions are expected to go back into Tier 3 restrictions, despite declines in Covid rates from pre-lockdown highs, while London mayor Sadiq Khan is reported as saying that the capital expects a return to Tier 2, with infection rates having risen once again, but from a much lower base.