Food Sorcery, Manchester
Helen Jack, owner of Food Sorcery in Manchester, will now have to close. The company provides cooking classes for individuals, work team-building events and professional chefs.
Manchester was in the highest tier before the lockdown, but under the old rules businesses like Food Sorcery were able to open.
She said: “We have been in a high tier since the end of July really, but we were still able to open as we are sort of between a restaurant and a workshop.
“We will have to close during December which is usually our busiest time. We were expecting this, but it’s still a bit of a blow. You can be prepared but when you actually hear it it’s upsetting.
“We were still wondering whether they were going to pull something out of the bag.”
She added: “The closure will have a significant impact on the business. Around Christmas we usually sell a lot of gift vouchers which make up a lot of our takings. We are already behind on our vouchers.
“It’s consumer confidence, people are thinking if you aren’t open now will you be next year? They will be less inclined to book ahead for classes for next year too.”
She said that the loss of the Christmas party season will also hit them hard. “We usually do three or four office Christmas parties a week in December,” she explained. “All of that is gone, which is extremely disappointing.”
However, she had some sympathy with the Government: “I think what they are doing is really hard and it’s difficult the decisions they have had to make. I’m not sure we have helped, I don’t think everyone has kept to the rules and restrictions.
“On the other hand, it’s really frustrating for hospitality as we have been really badly hit by the pandemic.”
With the announcement that swathes of England will be placed into a newly-toughened Tier 3 after lockdown, thousands of business which could previously operate have found themselves forced to shutter.
Under the ‘very high alert’ Tier 3 rules pubs and restaurants have been forced to operate on a takeaway-only basis, while indoor entertainment and tourist venues cannot open, forcing the closure of casinos, bingo halls, theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys, and other premises.
The Telegraph spoke to some of the businesses that have been adversely affected by the new rules and restrictions.
Libertine Burger, Warwickshire
Charles Harris, owner of Libertine Burger, a restaurant in Warwickshire, is “heartbroken” at the decision. Having been moved from Tier 1 pre-lockdown to the highest tier from next week, his restaurant will have to close. He also runs some pubs in the local area which will be similarly affected by the new regulations.
“I was maybe being naive, but we thought we would be in Tier 2 so it came as a shock,” he said. “We were Tier 1 before with a pretty low number of cases and I was getting ready for tier two.
“We had sat down and planned ahead for it and we hadn’t even thought about Tier 3. We didn’t plan for it at all.”
He added: “December is our busiest time of the year, it’s when we make our money for the rest of the year. That obviously won’t happen now. My pubs can make £800,000 over the Christmas period, it’s huge for us.
“I struggle to see a way forward for my pub business now. We will keep the restaurant going but I think unfortunately there will have to be job losses.”
He continued: “I couldn’t be more frustrated with the Government. I don’t get why everything takes so long to tell us about.
“Today was a disaster with the website crashing for people trying to check what tier they were in. The communication is always so bad, it seems like they don’t think about us.”
However, he had a note of optimism about the future. “I think that if we can get the business through to the Spring and the vaccine arriving then it will be ok.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with the vaccine and how they will distribute it, but I do feel positive for when we do come out of it. There will be a massive boom, it’s just a case of who survives to see it.”
The Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Tom Morris OBE is the artistic director at the Bristol Old Vic, which describes itself as the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world.
“Covid will not cancel Christmas in Bristol, even if theatres have to remain closed,” he said. “2020 has taught us to be flexible, creative and focussed on the reason why we’re here – to surprise, delight and entertain our audiences with stonkingly good theatre.
“We are going to keep doing that within the rules, whatever they turn out to be.”
Under the previous ‘Tier-1 plus’ restrictions theatres in Bristol were allowed to reopen, but this will no longer be the case under the Tier 3 rules affecting swathes of the country.
“The ambition to be clear about the rules we will operate by between now and March is incredibly helpful,” Mr Morris said. “It just happens that some of the rules in Tier 3 don’t make any sense.
“It’s madness that you can’t go to the theatre in Tier 3. Sports and arts are two sides of the same coin nourishing our physical and mental health together.
The Old Vic has put into place air circulation systems and social distancing precautions, which has only added to Mr Morris’ frustration that the venue will not be able to reopen for what could be a number of months.
“There is not one single recorded case of an audience member catching Covid at the theatre. The mask-wearing and social distancing systems in theatres are brilliantly designed and operated.”
The evidence base for keeping theatres open is “unambiguous”, according to Mr Morris, who believes that his theatre is “safer than three-family Christmases” and should be allowed to reopen for economic and wellbeing reasons.
“Alongside many others we are campaigning for a change to the rules with immediate effect.”
Hull Truck Theatre
Janthi Mills-Ward is the executive director of the Hull Truck events space which hosts plays, live concerts and jazz evenings.
Ms Mills-Ward had planned to reopen her business at the start of November, but England’ second lockdown was confirmed the day before her staff were due to return from furlough.
“We’re incredibly disappointed. The team has worked so hard and we feel like we’re a safe environment,” she said. “We’d like to see a full understanding of why the rules differ and why in Tier 3 we could open before, so Tuesday’s announcement was more of a shock.”
The theatre, open since 1971, was part of the team which brought the UK City of Culture accolade to Hull in 2017. Ms Mills-Ward has now expressed her anxieties about the situation facing the arts sector when there is no current roadmap out of the tiered restrictions.
“I want to understand why we aren’t safer than going into a gym with lots of people, or a swimming pool, or a busy shop. As an industry we need to know that.
“We want a roadmap for how we could reopen and welcome our audiences back in. We can plan to get back open but how do we know we’re getting to a point of being able to do that?”
Oakman Inns, Warwickshire
Peter Borg-Neal, owns Oakman Inns, which has three pubs in the Midlands – in Solihull, Warwick and Welford-Upon-Avon.
Two of these are in Warwickshire, which has been moved up from Tier 1 under the previous system all the way to Tier 3, making it one of the highest risk areas.
Mr Borg-Neal said: “My pubs were open before the lockdown, but they will have to close now. It’s just maddening. We still haven’t seen from this government any evidence of hospitality driving transmission.
“None of my staff have caught Covid-19 from working in the pubs, if it was rampant they would have.”
He added: “Public Health England have always had this quite spiteful attitude to our industry – trying to put calories on drinks and blaming us for all sorts of public health problems.
“If you look at the Christmas bubbles. Three households packed together in a house, how is that safer than a well-ventilated pub with all the measures in place? Why can’t they meet at the local pub? It would be safer for them.”
He continued: “We appear to be closed down without evidence and yet we are not being properly compensated.
“I went to a supermarket the other day and one door was broken so people were going in and out the same way, transmission is worse there. We [the pub industry] feel targeted.
“Some of my colleagues will be completely decimated.”
Curve Theatre, Leicester
Chris Stafford, the chief executive of Leicester’s Curve Theatre, described his staff as “really disappointed” by the renewed restrictions.
“Leicester’s been in a continued lockdown since early summer and we’d geared up last month to reopen and getting our theatre in a position that was Covid-safe with all sorts of various safety measures in place.
“We were very much hoping we would be able to open next month and the Tier 3 news is a great disappointment because we have to consider if we can go ahead with the production. It’s due to open on December 18 and it makes it very tight.”
Mr Stafford said that the theatre had spent around £100,000 on making its premises ‘Covid-safe’, and expressed his concerns about hundreds of freelancers who will remain without work while the curtains remain closed.
“What we really need is to be operating in line with other areas of the economy. We never want to put anyone’s health at risk. But we want to be able to reopen as other areas of the economy are.”