Hartlepool pubs and restaurants appeal to Boris Johnson to tell them when they can reopen in Lockdown announcement
Pub and restaurants in Hartlepool hope to learn when they will finally be able to reopen when Boris Johnson sets out his road map out of lockdown.
The Prime Minister is set to make an announcement on Monday, February 22, detailing the country’s route out of restrictions from the return of schools to the reopening of hospitality businesses.
Pubs and restaurant bosses in the town hope to be able to reopen as soon as it is safe, but stress they do not want any more lockdowns.
Darab Rezai, chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association which represents pubs and restaurants, said: “We want to make sure that everybody now get back open as soon as possible and employ people again.
"A lot of people have lost their jobs. Yes, we shouldn’t jump in too quick as we don’t want any more lockdowns but if people have got good facilities which can control social distancing we can’t see the harm.”
It has been reported that pubs may only be allowed to serve customers outside to begin with.
Mr Rezai said: “We think it would be better than nothing. It would be a step towards opening and the sooner they do that the better it would be.”
He called on the Government to keep customer VAT at 5% instead of the usual 20% which is currently due to expire on March 31.
He is in favour of hospitality businesses still having to follow some restrictions such as social distancing.
And Mr Rezai said pubs and restaurants need to know when they can reopen to make plans and make sure premises are ready.
"It has been closed for too long,” he said.
Scott Weir, who runs four pubs in the North East including King Johns Tavern in Hartlepool town centre, believes it could still be several months before they can reopen.
"My gut feeling is it’s going to be May,” he said. “If it happens earlier fantastic.”
He said he is happy to wait a bit longer to avoid the chance of further lockdowns.
Scott said: “We’re all struggling but I think it’s wrong to put profits before the safety of people and staff.
"What can’t happen is for everything to open up and the next thing go back into lockdown again.
"As soon as we can reopen we will reopen.”
And he said there needed to be continued Government support in the form of the furlough scheme for staff affected and business rates ‘holidays’ to help the trade get back on its feet.
But smaller pubs like The Fishermans Arms on the Headland believe it will be the summer before they are able to welcome customers back.
The pub, in Southgate, has only been open for about eight weeks in nearly a year due to the impact of the pandemic.
Landlady Hazel Whitelock, who has been advised to shield until March due to her asthma, said: “We are only a small community pub.
"I don’t have a beer garden so it’s worse for me. I’m going to be one of the last ones to reopen.
"In reality I think it will be about June or July before I’m allowed to reopen.”
Social distancing measures meant ‘The Fish’ has been unable to hold quizzes and live music it is known for and relies on.