How do Eastbourne business owners feel about tier 2 restrictions?

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Tough new tier 2 restrictions have left many pubs struggling in what is traditionally their busiest time of year.

Pub bosses say they are struggling under the tough new restrictions imposed on December 2.

The Forum of British Pubs has accused the government of ‘throwing the hospitality industry to the wolves’ after it put 99 per cent of the country in tier 2 and 3 restrictions.

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The hospitality industry has been in and out of different rules ever since March. The first lockdown saw months of businesses only able to offer takeaways, then there was a period of abiding by the 10pm curfew.

Eastbourne town centre: SUS-201011-132014001Eastbourne town centre: SUS-201011-132014001
Eastbourne town centre: SUS-201011-132014001

Most recently the industry was put back into a month-long lockdown which has again only allowed takeaway service.

And on December 2 Eastbourne was put into tier two: although pubs and restaurants can now open until 11pm, last orders are at 10pm and venues can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’.

Only family groups or bubbles can dine out together.

The forum argues the current restrictions are ‘set to decimate the hospitality sector’.

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The Seven Sisters PubThe Seven Sisters Pub
The Seven Sisters Pub

Members of the forum say it is are frustrated by the lack of hard scientific and health based evidence to justify the closure of well run and socially distanced outlets which look after their staff and customers.

Ian Cass, managing director of the forum, said, “What the government thinks will happen on New Year’s Eve, when it is predicted many people will ignore the guidance, is a mystery to most pub and bar operators.

“As happened on the first lockdown, many will meet up socially in parks and public areas, sometimes at events funded and promoted by organised crime.

“Surely it would be better if people were allowed to get together in well-regulated pubs and bars where safety guidelines are being enforced and followed.

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Jesters SUS-201130-160339001Jesters SUS-201130-160339001
Jesters SUS-201130-160339001

“The focus should be on preserving our pubs and hospitality venues in a safe and responsible way rather than using them as a scapegoat for the government’s poorly communicated and badly executed plans to reduce transmission.”

A number of Eastbourne business owners said the tier system is going to change their Decembers in the run up to Christmas.

Dan Langham, marketing director of Eastbourne Cocktail Club, said, “It’s very disappointing to cancel bookings for customers who were looking forward to the festive season. We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure our business is ready to deliver a great experience for our customers over the holidays.”

Dan said the bar is currently being refurbished too, which was meant to be ready for a big reopening, something that won’t be happening for a while.

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He said, “Even if we can reopen from December 16, we’d have to consider the pros and cons of doing so. There’s only so many times you can let customers down. I predict a lot of venues will remain closed for the few days between December 16 and new years. It’s hard to say until we know what’s going on.”

Charlotte Copping, landlady of The Seven Sisters pub, said, “We are unable to open under tier 2 because only five per cent of our customers are eaters. I’ve spoken to many of our regulars who just come in for drinks and unfortunately because they won’t be able to eat a substantial meal they won’t be coming to the pub. We are a small family business and the building is owned by Enterprise Inns. During the first lockdown they credited us for our out of date beer. They also suspended our rent but are now making us pay it back.

“This lockdown they aren’t helping us with any loss of stock nor have they stopped our rent. We have incredibly high outgoings so if we don’t receive help from the government or the brewery I don’t see how we will ever be able to reopen under such stupid rules. Unless the government change the tier rulings so that pubs can work how they were before without the substantial meal, I don’t see us opening this side of Christmas.”

Ben Saber, owner of Jesters Sports & Music Bar, said, “The tier 2 selection for East Sussex will really badly affect us at Jesters. We can stay open as we have restaurant inside but what we can and can’t do is becoming very hard to take and understand – as always the rules aren’t clear.

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“I took over the business in January this year and the bar was closed in March due to Covid. Since then, reopening on the July 4, we had nothing but rules after rules to follow – some pretty much impossible to keep to and all rules taking a massive hit on takings.

“I would love to see the evidence and scientific proof behind the 10pm curfew and now these rules around only drinking with food?

Nelson SUS-201130-160359001Nelson SUS-201130-160359001
Nelson SUS-201130-160359001

“None of it makes sense and with us spending a lot on a refit throughout the last lockdown and getting the bar to be one of the best in the town, we are really low on morale at the moment, but we promise all our customers we will be back bigger and better.

“We feel the industry has been hit the hardest and with little funding this time around which doesn’t even cover the rent let alone bills – we want evidence and answers and help to bounce back.”

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Although restaurants and cafes have all been affected by the tough new tier 2 rules, which force eateries to close at 11pm, last orders at 10pm and no mixing of households to dine, they have not been hit as hard as pubs.

Eastbourne restaurant bosses were cautiously optimistic about the Christmas season as they re-opened last week.

Ben Divis, manager of La Locanda Del Duca, said before the December 2 announcement that he was ‘really looking forward to opening’.

“We are all in the Christmas mood already.

“We have prepared a special Christmas menu for our customers and we can’t wait to see their happy faces.”

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Ben Nicholson, co-director of Nelson Coffee, said, “Whilst it’s disappointing not being able to welcome groups of people into Nelson, we are nonetheless excited to swing the doors open again and welcome customers back in for a sit down coffee and pancakes.”

Laura Full, owner of Perfectly Brewed, said, “I am very excited to welcome customers back inside just in time for the launch of our new Christmas menu.

“Being in tier 2 is a big relief and we are doing everything possible to ensure we’re a safe and secure place to visit.

“This second lockdown was more challenging than the first one but I am happy to have made it out the other side thanks to the support of the locals.

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“I hope they continue to shop with Eastbourne’s independent businesses in the run up to Christmas.”

Vicky Kotsiou, owner of Gr/eat Greek Cuisine, said, “The news of Eastbourne being in tier 2 is simply devastating for our industry.

“We were hopeful that we could trade as normal during December – the strongest winter month from a sales perspective – but with the tier 2 restrictions in place, friends, work colleagues and extended families won’t be able to dine together.

“The imposed restrictions are even more frustrating considering the recent study from Public Health England showing a one per cent exposure in restaurants and cafes when supermarkets are 18.3 per cent.

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“Hospitality businesses have invested considerable amounts in turning our business into Covid-secure environments and if the government won’t support us further we’ll see an influx of hospitality businesses going under in 2021.

“We are asking for Eastbourne to keep supporting small independent businesses.

“Eat local, support local.”

Shawn Wheeler, owner of The 19th Hole Restaurant & Bar at Willingdon Golf Club, said, “We took over the restaurant in February of this year which obviously has probably been the worst year possible for many places.

“We have struggled through, only being possible with the help of the golf club as we have had no support from the local council or government schemes due to being a new business.

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“We saw a light at the end of the tunnel coming into December, the biggest and most important month for hospitality meaning we could open and complete our Christmas bookings and bring some cheer to the local community, only to be told that we are basically still locked down in everything but words.

“Tier 2 lockdown means we can only serve family/bubble units which would make it near impossible to survive as a business.

“We have taken the incredibly hard decision to remain closed and to keep staff on furlough.

“We will continue our takeaway options for the local community and hope for a better outcome in the coming weeks.”

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Lucy Hancock, owner of The Art House, said, “Given that the headlines this week had anticipated that we would be in tier 3 we are relieved and taking it as a positive.

“We have our decorations up, Christmas stock is in, and Santa’s Grotto is ready.”

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