Cookham pub owner fears for hospitality after roadmap delay

A Cookham pub owner has claimed that the hospitality industry is ‘bearing the brunt’ of lockdown restrictions after the Government pressed pause on its plans for ‘freedom day’ on June 21.

For months this date has been earmarked as the day all restrictions on social contact would end, but due to concerns over variants and increasing case numbers UK-wide, Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved this date back by four weeks, until Monday, July 19.

The move has been backed by health experts who had feared a dangerous third wave but Serena Burns, owner of The Crown pub in The Moor, Cookham, feels as though her industry is picking up the pieces.

“It just feels like we are the ones who are bearing the brunt of what is happening,” she said. “I am not disputing that what is going on is not important, but it seems like it is having an awful effect on the hospitality industry at the moment.”

Many publicans had been hoping to reopen fully later this month, with limits on capacities and social distancing ending, meaning they could have traded much like their normal selves.

The four-week delay means that restrictions including table service, distancing and rules on gatherings will remain in place until mid-July, leaving many pubs scraping the barrel of the cash register.

Serena added that another concern was finding adequate staff to do the job, with many of them being ‘worked to the bone’.

“More is expected of the ones who are working now,” she said. “And it is a struggle to get them anyway. We are really finding it quite difficult.

“Everything is expected to be paid now as normal, and we are just not getting the same sort of people in the door. It is not a good time for us.”

She added: “People need to realise that it is still not normal, and I think we are far off from being that. We are the ones who are picking it all up.

“It is difficult – we have got bills, families, jobs to think about. It just does not feel like that is being taken into consideration. We’re running on the tightest ship going.”

Serena said that the furlough support scheme and grants have supported her staff and pub before but has called for more support to see venues through the remaining days of restrictions.

“I feel like there should be a lot more help in place for us before they keep putting it back,” she said. “Honestly, I just can’t see things improving, I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.”

Mr Johnson said at a press conference on Monday, in which the July 19 date was announced, that he was ‘confident’ a delay would not continue beyond this point.

"At a certain stage, we are going to have to learn to live with the virus and to manage it as best we can," the Prime Minister said.

“Even if the link between infection and hospitalisation has been weakened, it has not been severed.

“We have obviously faced a very difficult choice. We can simply going even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines.

“Or we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.”

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