PUBS and restaurants will be forced to remain takeaway-only as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced tougher tier three coronavirus restrictions.
Although it is not yet confirmed which areas will be placed into the higher tiers, due to the infection rates being higher in East Lancashire than other areas of the country and the area having been in tier three before the national lockdown, it is likely the county will see the toughest restrictions imposed again.
Tier three will see all hospitality, indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation close.
In tier three areas, hospitality businesses can still operate as a takeaway and delivery service.
Mr Johnson added that he was “very sorry” for the “hardship” that such restrictions will cause business owners.
Gary Perkins, who owns four hospitality venues in Darwen, said: “I’m gutted about it if we still remain in tier three.
“Last time we went into tier three we managed to open as a restaurant but that is not an option now. It’s disappointing but it doesn’t come as a surprise really. It wouldn’t make sense really to open up if infection rates are rising.
“We pinned our hopes on December 2 but we knew it was a long shot.”
Over the last six months, Gary, who owns Taps Bar, Spitfire and The Vault in Darwen, has been busy renovating the old Barclays Bank building on Church Street in the town, which is yet to open.
The Bank is already open as a take-away and Gary plans to continue this until he can open properly. Taps Bar is also operating as a takeaway after opening last Thursday.
This news will come as a bitter pill for many pubs and bars in East Lancashire who were forced to close on October 16, which saw 1,127 pubs in Lancashire close their doors.
Although many were able to remain temporarily open as a restaurant, some pubs still closed their doors as remaining open then was not financially viable.
Beer expert and pub campaigner from Burnley, Mark Briggs said: “For pubs and restaurants this is just devastating news.
“A lot of pubs will probably close. A lot of the traditional pubs which rely on wet sales will close as a result of this and it's just devastating news.
“People’s livelihoods are being destroyed. It’s not only the licensees, it’s the customers and the local breweries as well.”
The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, have also responded to Mr Johnson's announcement.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Pubs are COVID-secure, following all Government guidelines, serving to tables, enforcing social distancing and working hand in hand with NHS test and trace.
“We are asking the Government to reconsider their approach and allow pubs to play their vital role in local communities over the festive period, bringing people together safely and providing some much-needed festive cheer and essential trade to keep our locals alive.”
In areas where hospitality will remain open, the 10pm curfew will be relaxed, with new guidelines asking premises to shut at 11pm.