The White Hart in Fyfield

Pubs, bars and restaurants across Oxfordshire are bracing themselves for another massive drop in takings, potential job losses, and even closure after the announcement that they must close by 10pm and offer table service only, following a rise in coronavirus cases.

THE ONE HOUR DIFFERENCE COMPLETELY KNOCKS OUT OUR SECOND SEATING, IT WILL COST US 40-60% OF TAKINGS

The 10pm curfew on hospitality businesses starts on Thursday and the shutdown is bound to have a financial impact on hospitality businesses, many still reeling from the first lockdown.

READ ABOUT: the extended ‘eat out to help out offers in September’ here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/oxfordshire-pubs-and-restaurants-pubs-extend-eat-out-to-help-out-during-september-with-some-great-offers/

And yet local publicans, landlords and tenants disagree with this seeming condemnation of the hospitality trade and ask how much more they can take.

Beccy Webb from The Chester Arms said: “The one hour difference completely knocks out our second seating, it will cost us 40-60% of takings. For those businesses on the brink it will be the final nail in the coffin.

“We have implemented track and trace and social distancing and feel it is a safe environment. People don’t get drunk and forget the rules in restaurants, that applies more to late licensed pubs. It will also mean less hours for our staff without the furlough scheme in place to help them.

The Chester’s famous roast

“It feels like those that have done everything asked of them are being punished and yet hordes of students are coming to the city and gathering in big groups.”

Paul Welburn, head chef at 215 Kitchen and Drinks in Summertown said: ‘I am speechless. Once again as an industry we have had short notice restrictions put on us with no clear explanation as to why we all have to suffer.

“Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back”

“Where is the proof that any reduction in opening times has any effect on the cases increasing, all of us in this industry have gone above and beyond to make our guests and staff safe?

Dessert at 215 Kitchen and Drinks this week

“Again the people making decisions have zero idea on how hospitality works or the impact it will have.

“We will roll our sleeves up and again try and work out a plan and hope our loyal guests will understand, and our team will once again adapt , I look forward to hearing what support the government give based on these restrictions … there had better be some.”

Kay Chandler from the White Hart Fyfield says: “The new 10pm curfew will make a HUGE difference to us.

“Because of the social distancing requirements and the removal of tables, we have already lost a large proportion of our indoor seating so it is essential to spread bookings out over a longer time period, to ensure we can take sufficient revenue to stay in business.

Closing at 10pm, means that we will lose all bookings between 8:30pm and 9:30pm – basically our whole second sitting – which is a huge percentage of our revenue.

“The impact on capacity and revenue is enormous!

“I do not believe the problem is people sat at tables finishing their meals at 10pm at night!”

“We will have to start serving dinner earlier and give guests a limited time at their table. The White Hart is all about the whole experience of going out to eat, relaxing and taking your time – this part will have to be put on hold if we are to survive!

“The issue the government is trying to deal with is groups of late night drinkers – people getting drunk and then not adhering to social distancing. This is not relevant to us – we are food led pub restaurant and the biggest impact will be on our restaurant guests, who are simply coming to have a meal with us.

“The 10pm curfew rule will put our business in jeopardy, and we will risk losing the jobs of the team we have fought so hard for over the last 6 months.

“The curfew will have a hugely detrimental impact on us – no government help is being offered, yet we are having to cut our capacity and revenue again and again.

“I do not believe the problem is people sat at tables finishing their meals at 10pm at night!”

Chris Mulhall of Plough at 38 in Oxford city centre says: “It’s another blow to consumer confidence and that means less bums on seats all round. 

“There is also absolutely no factual evidence that the hospitality industry is responsible for the transmission rise, (4.6% transmission from pubs and restaurants, 10 times this in care homes and 5 times this in schools) yet we are punished as an industry. So closing our businesses early is shocking and sets a dangerous precedent.”

“I PREDICT A LOT MORE BUSINESSES WILL GO BUST BECAUSE OF THIS, ESPECIALLY BARS AND PUBS”

“The irony here is come November the unemployment figures subsequent to furlough end for our industry will make grim reading on this trajectory.

The new look Plough at 38

“the Government’s handling of the virus is unforgivable and this new curfew should not attack hospitality on its own.”

Hamish Stoddart of Peach Pubs which runs The Fleece in Witney, The Fishes in Hinksey, The Thatch in Thame and The Bear in Ragged Staff in Cumnor agrees:

“It feels like hospitality is getting a kicking because it’s something the government can enforce. And yet transmission doesn’t occur in well regulated pubs generally so we should focus on the regulations rather than a curfew.

“I predict a lot more businesses will go bust because of this, especially bars and pubs where you go later on in the evening,

“We run gastropubs and can get the procedures in place to ensure those dining at 8.30pm can still enjoy a comfortable dinner.

The Bear and Ragged Staff

On a more positive note Hamish said that people tended to be dining earlier and encouraged his clients to still support their local pubs and restaurants.

“Its hard to keep reinventing ourselves and be the safest and most comfortable pubs in town but Peach is good at that. So come for dinner.”

“Customer confidence will go down, so overall we’ll have fewer customers, especially in a tiny pub like ours”

Mark Butcher of The White Hart in Wytham, said: “I think that a local not national approach is what’s needed now.

The new dining pods at The White Hart in Wytham

“Once again we have to double down on ensuring we provide the safest and most secure experience for our customers and our staff. And get yet more creative and agile in how we operate. This IS the new normal.”

“The curfew will have a hugely detrimental impact on us – no government help is being offered, yet we are having to cut our capacity and revenue again and again”

Claire Alexander of Killingworth Castle and The Ebrington says: “I think the Government’s handling of the virus is unforgivable and this new curfew should be coupled with other measures elsewhere, and not attacking hospitality on its own.

“We’ve already been hit the hardest and this new curfew means we can’t take as many tables at 8.30pm and those that do come in then are on a time limit. 

The garden at Killingworth Castle in Wootton

“We would like to remind folks to be patient. But we are so used to dealing with whatever is thrown at us we will find a way to cope.”

Stacey Prigent from The Horse and Groom at Caulcott is hoping their popular takeaway option will keep the pub going: “Customer confidence will go down, so overall we’ll have fewer customers, especially in a tiny pub like ours. We’ve managed to keep all of our trade outside until now, but the weather is due to break and we’re opening inside this week. Hopefully takeaway will increase in popularity again to keep us going.”

“The difficulty will be for our residents who have booked to come away and enjoy a little break if they will be confined to their rooms from 10pm”

Catriona Galbraith of The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis adds: “We are concerned about the possible loss of confidence amongst the public about going out at all after all the gains that were made with the Eat Out scheme in August which we have extended into September and which has kept us busy. 

“The difficulty will be for our residents who have booked to come away and enjoy a little break if they will be confined to their rooms from 10pm which is not appealing for some.”

“Christmas bookings may be slow to start this year, but we are trying our best to stay positive.

Liam Whittaker, head chef at The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis

Sarah Heather-Holt of The Mole Inn in Toot Baldon and The Mole in Easington said:

“Being able to dine out again has been good for everyone’s mental health so while this is frustrating it’s better than closing fully again – that is a big relief in itself.

“We will have to start service earlier and finish earlier and our turnover will be affected no doubt. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back but we’re glad to still be open and employing our staff to some degree rather than closing up shop and we hope these measures are relatively short lived. You have to look at the positives really and not let it get you down.” 

Sarah and her team at The Mole

The curfew follows announcements from the government’s senior health advisers who warned that there could be 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by the middle of October.

SARAH EDWARDS AND KATHERINE MACALISTER


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