Liverpool operators fear wipeout in face of partial lockdown

12 October 2020 by
Liverpool operators fear wipeout in face of partial lockdown

Hospitality operators in Liverpool have told The Caterer they are struggling with anxiety and a "growing dread" over the prospect of a long-term lockdown of pubs and bars.

The city's pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres and casinos must close from Wednesday as it becomes the first area to enter the ‘very high' virus alert level.

Prime minister unveils three-tier system

Simon Vanderbelt, co-owner of the Little Taproom on Aigburth Road, which only opened in March, said the business had "done OK" during the first lockdown by offering a craft beer and real ale delivery service.

But he is fearful it will not be enough to sustain the bar over the winter.

Vanderbelt said: "We're still going to offer a takeaway service but we're probably not going to break even this time.

"The [government] support offered in terms of two-thirds pay and a small grant doesn't really cover our rent. We'll do what we can but it's a growing dread of how long [the closure] lasts for. It simply won't be sustainable for the whole winter. If that happens we'll have some very hard decisions to make. Being less than a year old it's particularly heart-breaking."

Covid tier system
Covid tier system

Restaurants and pubs serving "substantial meals" can remain open, but some operators fear they could see footfall wiped out while being unable to qualify for full government support.

Peter Kinsella, owner of the Lunya and Lunyalita restaurants in Liverpool, told The Caterer: "We would be better off closed with the government help that was announced on Friday rather than being kept open with virtually no trade.

"[Tier 3] closes down so much of the city centre economy that we'd expect about 10% of our normal trade. It's completely unviable to open.

"The support mechanisms sound great in the media but in effect are difficult to access and leave restaurants high and dry. If we're doing 10%-20% trade we can't afford to make a jot of contribution towards wages."

He added that a full lockdown of hospitality was preferable if it meant businesses could reopen to a degree around Christmas.

"The worst-case scenario is not to be able to have any sort of trade around Christmas, otherwise we'll all go under in January and February."

Paul Askew, chef-patron at Liverpool's the Art School restaurant, said he wanted to stay open but was similarly worried about footfall.

"The dilemma is if there will be enough guests to make the business viable," he said.

"The narrative is work from home and don't use public transport. Will that scare people away? Will they want to come into the city centre? I think some hospitality businesses in the area feel they might be better off being closed if they get the support."

Askew added that he was planning to access the £40m funding package from the Liverpool local authority, the full details of which are expected to be announced this week.

He said: "Liverpool was the third most-visited city in the UK before coronavirus. It's very heavily structured around the visitor economy and hospitality.

"I think [the local authority] hopes it will shame central government into matching it or doing something nationally.

"What happens in Liverpool this week could easily happen in London in three weeks' time. This is not unique to the north."

Photo: Shutterstock

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