Eastbourne traders tell of impact of 10pm curfew on business
The changes also mean the hospitality sector is restricted by law to table service only.
Businesses have been hit nationally by this curfew, and Eastbourne is no different.
Heidi Lane, owner of The Crown & Anchor pub in Marine Parade, said the seasonal element to the seaside town makes matters worse.
When the pub would normally have entertainment to keep numbers up in the colder months, it is seriously restricted with what it can offer - and the curfew only worsens things.
She said, “Now that winter is here, it is really dismal in the week.
“It is okay at the weekends, but Fridays have really suffered since the curfew.
“I understand the measures in place, but it’s like we’ve gone back to old licensing laws”, something she said only leads to everyone having to leave at the same time anyway.
The pub is now serving half the number of customers it normally would.
Heidi said, “You lose money to be open, it has been a blow. It’s hard to know what will happen next, I’ll just do what I’m told and hope for the best.”
The owners of Gre/eat, a Greek restaurant on Terminus Road, said in a statement, “We haven’t seen much of a difference, and we are happy to report that our guests are adapting to the curfew with minimum complaints.”
Shoes Simes, the owner of a number of pubs in Eastbourne including The Eagle, is worried the curfew is having the opposite affect.
She said, “The curfew is encouraging people to socialise at home instead which is where the virus is more likely to spread. In our industry we’re cleaning regularly – we’ve trained for it and planned for it – this isn’t the case at home.”
The financial impact of the curfew was something she also said would be the ‘final straw’ for some businesses.
Shoes said customers have been ‘reasonable’ with the changes and they’re just trying to do ‘everything in the best possible way’.
The difficulty comes in not knowing what is going to happen in the future and being unable to plan as a result of this uncertainty.
“The whole industry are waiting for news because we don’t know if the situation will change, it’s hard to plan,” Shoes said.
The 7Bone Burger Co was positive, despite the uncertain climate for hospitality.
Jessica Hallewell, site manager for the Eastbourne branch, said, “I don’t think customers are turned away by it.
“It is annoying and it does affect trade, but it’s not so bad for us.”
7Bone does not take bookings, so it cannot strategically time tables around the curfew - they serve people on a walk-in basis only.
Jessica said, “Seating has gone down by about 65 per cent. We have lost a lot of tables and therefore a lot of covers.
“Everyone is abiding by the rules though, we have reassurance from our customers, and they have confidence in us.”
Optimistically, 7Bone is expanding as a brand and has been able to keep all staff members on.
Jessica said, “We’re really lucky that we’re doing well as a company.”
Darren Myall, co-owner of the The Loft Lounge, in Mark Lane, said how the curfew has ‘crucified’ them.
He added, “Between 65 and 70 per cent of our turnover is lost, it’s absolutely destroyed us.”
Initial reopening from lockdown meant the situation started to improve.
He said, “We started doing okay, staff were getting more and more hours, then the curfew came and it was gone.
“Staff went from 20 hours a week to two, and pushed the bar to miss out on 10 of the busiest hours of the week.”
As well as this, it was previously serving food – something Darren said they’ve had to cut back on in order to be able to pay staff.
“We can’t afford to restock and reopen the kitchen, we need to save every penny to pay the staff.”
He said how the curfew has caused issues for the behaviour of customers too.
“People aren’t coming out in the day, they’re just coming a bit earlier in the evening, then binge drinking.”
This binge drinking is causing people to refuse to socially distance, adding to security issues.
Darren said, “People are just getting so drunk, and we’re having to pick up the pieces.
“It forces everyone out early, they binge drink as fast as they can, then head back to house parties where rules won’t be followed – it doesn’t make any sense why they’ve done it.”
Natalie Lennol, landlady of The Lamb Inn in Old Town, said Covid has put a stop to the live entertainment they used to offer.
“We used to be six people deep at the bar, and we had live music and comedy every weekend too.”
She has had to take a number of tables out of the pub to be able to abide by social distancing, and the earlier finish of course means fewer covers too.
She said, “People are respectful of everything we have done, a few have been upset, but it is what it is.”
The topic of Christmas came up too, and how different it will be for the hospitality industry that would usually be preparing for its busiest time of year.
Natalie said, “We haven’t been able to do anything for Christmas in case we go into another lockdown.”
Alan Wong, general manager of The Bok Shop in The Beacon shopping centre, said trade, both in the restaurant and takeaways, has been affected by the curfew.
He said, “We don’t get anything in past 9pm now, and we don’t get as many late orders either, normally we’d get a late flurry of orders - but not anymore.”
Although he said the restaurant is large so the table numbers have not decreased, the time limit caused by the curfew has had an impact on the number of orders they receive.
As well as being hit by the curfew, The Bok Shop is next door to Cineworld, which announced last week it was shutting due to struggling with Covid. Alan said it has made a ‘big difference’ due to the lack of passing trade because people are less likely to head upstairs in The Beacon now due to the lack of cinema.
Alan also said that there are a number of empty units in The Beacon, and because of this and the current climate, he said he ‘doesn’t think Christmas shopping will pick up either’.
“It’s weird, I don’t understand how shutting at 10pm will help matters, the virus doesn’t have a time limit. Everything is on a knife edge, especially with half term coming up. It’s all very damaging for the industry.”
The uncertainty, and constantly changing rules and restrictions means that the hospitality industry cannot plan ahead, and instead must continue to try and keep going with what they are told by government.
While the majority of venues are surviving, there is much uncertainty in the industry.
This week the parent company of a number of Eastbourne pubs and restaurants warned thousands of staff they may lose their jobs.
Mitchells & Butlers venues – under Vintage Inns, Oaktree Pubs, Harvester and Toby Carvery – include the Duke of Devonshire, the Harvester at Sovereign Harbour, Toby Carvery in Willingdon Drove, Beachy Head Pub, Horse & Groom at Polegate, Cuckmere Inn at Exceat and the Lamb at Hooe.
On Monday Mitchells & Butler announced it was consulting staff over job cuts.
A spokesperson said the industry was operating in ‘exceptionally challenging and uncertain circumstances’.
The spokesperson said, “While we have worked incredibly hard to makes sites Covid-19 secure and keep staff and customers safe, we are facing significant difficulties from the recently introduced 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants, new enforced closures and tapering government support that doesn’t go far enough.
“Mitchells and Butlers, like many others in the sector, has taken the very difficult and regrettable decision to open redundancy consultations with a number of our front-line team and will seek to redeploy affected staff wherever possible.
“With trading restrictions and uncertainty likely to continue for the foreseeable future, we strongly urge the government to step up the level of support it is offering to an industry which has been repeatedly singled out and taken the full brunt of restrictions.”