Let's hope that government doesn't cause businesses to fall at the last hurdle, says Robin Hutson.
There is no doubt in my mind that this third lockdown has been much harder on everyone's mental wellbeing than the previous ones. I notice it in myself, with my family and with many of our team that it's ever more difficult to stay positive and motivated.
Of course, grey, drizzly February weather and a poor start by England in the Six Nations would not help my mood at the best of times, but it really feels like many of us don't have much energy left in the tank. Unfortunately, I think we still have a good few weeks to endure yet.
I have been trying to cheer up our household by creating my own personal Eat Out to Help Out scheme. I have been booking a couple of restaurants that either didn't get booked or had bookings cancelled in 2020 – Silo and Cornerstone in London – and a couple of pubs with rooms – the Mash Inn in High Wycombe and the Royal Oak at Ramsden in Oxfordshire.
Of course, there is still the chance that we won't be able to do everything in exactly the way we want to this year, but it definitely helps to have a few things in the diary to look forward to, rather than the endless Zoom meetings and virtual meet-ups looming for months ahead.
I am not really sure how and when we will be allowed to open, what those tiers will look like and how close to normality our operations will be in the spring and summer.
If last weekend's newspapers are anything to go by, it would appear there are some within the government's inner circle who are pushing for controls through alcohol sales as a way to tighten the tier system, as Wales has seen.
We have argued long and hard that alcohol consumption in Covid-safe, controlled, licensed premises has to be the less risky option, rather than cheap booze being bought from convenience stores at any time of day and night and consumed by groups of friends at home.
This central argument appears to have fallen on deaf ears, so instead of controls on supermarkets selling alcohol late at night, once again it looks as if the potential for hospitality to get slammed with yet another economically disastrous restriction is quite high.
Once again it looks as if the potential for hospitality to get slammed with yet another economically disastrous restriction is quite high
Any operator could tell government that it's the combination of revenue streams – the food, the drinks, sometimes bedrooms and spas – that create profitability together. We can only hope that if any such restrictions are imposed then there is financial support from government to compensate. Without support, I for one am deeply concerned (particularly for the smaller businesses) about what opening up could look like.
I know we can just about see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I sincerely hope that not too many businesses fall at this final furlong, but it only adds to the fatigue to have to second-guess these daily announcements that can have such devastating consequences for our sector.
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