Leeds hospitality industry struggling with COVID-19 regulations

Bars and Pubs must close at 10pm.

One Leeds city centre pub has seen a 47% decrease in sales in the first week of October compared to the same week last year.

by Olly Bradley

The introduction of a ’10pm curfew’ on the hospitality industry came into effect on the 24th September in one of the government’s latest attempts to lessen the spread of the now infamous virus in the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s imposition of the curfew on the hospitality sector is one of many regulations put in place for businesses to follow, with this being tightly monitored by patrolling officials.

Niall Emerson, bar manager at Boar Lane pub ‘The Griffin’ discussed how “sales have dropped big time”, not only for his pub, but in the industry as a whole since the curfew came into play.

Mr Emerson, who has worked in the industry since he was 16, detailed how the governments enforcing of rules, such as compulsory seating for all customers and table service, have meant that his bar can only accommodate a fifth of its usual capacity (around 100 people down from 500).

The Griffin is one of many examples of a struggling hospitality industry.

Compared to last year, ‘The Griffin’ has seen its sales decrease in a way unprecedented since its 2015 opening. The week commencing the 1st October, just after the conclusion of Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat-out-to-Help-out’ scheme saw a 47% drop off from the business’ previous years take for the same time period.

Whilst this has not yet meant redundancies for any of their staff, Mr Emerson did point out that a few Greene King pubs (the umbrella brewery that The Griffin operates under) had unfortunately ceased to operate.

On the 8th October, Greene King announced the closure of 26 of its establishments nationally, a move indicative of the current difficult climate within which the hospitality industry must operate.

Mr Emerson remains optimistic about the coming months though, saying “hopefully we’ll be trading over Christmas because that is far and away our busiest period”.

The extent to which the hospitality industry has been impacted by the introduction of measures such as the 10pm curfew was furthered by Emma Lewis, supervisor at the University of Leeds’ union pub “Old Bar”. She said “a lot of people just don’t bother coming at all anymore because they can’t have a decent night out” drawing on the curfew as the reason for the lack of student patronage.

The former undergraduate student also discussed the tight regulations imposed on customers when inside bars and pubs to wear masks, focusing on the penalisation of employees “often on minimum wage” for not enforcing the rules being through fines, calling it “just mad”.

Emma shared her thoughts on the government’s handling of the pandemic in terms of their attitudes towards the hospitality industry, calling it “disheartening” that the industry was being “blamed for the spike that quite clearly coincided with Universities going back”.

Despite Miss Lewis’ obvious disdain for Boris Johnson and his cabinet’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not an opinion shared throughout the hospitality industry.

The aforementioned manager of ‘The Griffin’, Niall Emerson, detailed what he acknowledged as “not the most popular opinion” saying that “Boris hasn’t done the worst job” in regards to the government’s imposition of regulations and their effect on industry.

The future of the hospitality industry in the UK is one that is unpredictable and unsettling for many who rely on it for their income. Both business owners and employees alike are under immense pressure to abide by government enforced guidelines whilst still creating a positive atmosphere in their place of work.

For the meantime, the hospitality industry keeps trading, but the looming prospect of another lock-down, local or national is still very much a concern.

About the Author

Olly Bradley
3rd Year Journalism Student

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