PUB landlords who blame Barnsley town centre’s dwindling night-time trade on the government’s strict closing curfew are bracing themselves for even more restrictions which could ‘kill off’ trade completely.
All hospitality venues now have to shut at 10pm - a move which is ‘strangling’ already tough trade and result in businesses going bust, owners in the town believe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who outlined the tough new stance in a televised address to the nation at the end of September, is expected to bring in even more measures relating to the sector next week.
Paul McNicholas, who owns Annie Murray’s, OO Bar and Hill 16 in the town centre, told the Chronicle he used the last two weekends as a test run but warned venues simply will not survive - unless restrictions are rethought.
“As it is now, I’d have preferred a full-on lockdown for a month or so as that would hopefully have got hold of the virus and allowed us a clean slate for the Christmas period,” he added.
“That’s a massively busy time of year and we’re in desperate need of it, so closing for a while is what I think the government should have done.
“When we were given permission to reopen, we decided to close at 11pm anyway but the 10pm time is just too hard to even attempt to turn any sort of profit.
“Extra staff are needed because of the table service aspect, and regulars who have been standing beside bars for years simply can’t do that anymore so it’s ruined the experience for many.
“It’s not so bad in the out-of-town venues as people start locally and move into the centre as the night goes on, but the curfew makes this impossible.
“I have concerns the town centre will struggle for a long time to come and it could prove to be the end for some.”
The town’s bars contribute almost £50m a year to Barnsley’s economy, as well as more than 2,500 jobs, but they were all forced to close on March 20 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak before their reopenings were given the go-ahead in July.
Since then tougher restrictions have been enforced - which threaten landlords with a £10,000 fine if they’re found to be flouting the rules - and the curfew was announced in a bid to ward off a second spike of coronavirus cases.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) claim the government has unfairly targeted the hospitality sector - refuting any notion that it was responsible for an increase in positive tests - and called on ministers to publish evidence for opting to close pubs at 10pm.
A spokesman for its Barnsley branch told the Chronicle: “Publicans across the borough who have already spent thousands making their premises Covid-secure now face dwindling levels of trade as a result of these government decisions, which will undoubtedly lead to permanent closure.
“Without seeing the evidence that was used to impose a curfew and other restrictions, the beer and pubs sector feels that it is being unfairly targeted without explanation, evidence or any financial help to compensate.
“Pub-goers and publicans alike want to stop the spread of Covid-19, but this curfew is a restriction that unfairly targets the sector and will have a devastating impact on pubs, jobs and local communities.”