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Lockdown 2: pub profits to dry up again

Covid closures leave struggling publicans facing uncertainty and a new battle for survival

06 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Manager Mehmet Bezgin behind the bar this week at the Blackstock pub in Finsbury Park

PUBLICANS say they are facing “big financial trouble” after last orders were called on Wednesday night as the second lockdown kicked in.

Landlords and bar managers fear a further four weeks of enforced closure could leave them teetering on the edge.

It follows on from the first national lockdown, then a 10pm curfew and later a ban on customers meeting people from other households inside pubs.

Concerns are now growing that the measures will go beyond December 2 after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government’s furlough scheme would be extended to March, leading to a new focus on what timetable ministers are working towards as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

Mehmet Bezgin, who runs the Blackstock pub in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, said: “We can manage for a month or two months, we can handle that. But if this is going to be longer, we are going to be in big financial trouble. There are so many government U-turns at the moment – we don’t know what is going to happen.”

He added: “We don’t know the future, that is the problem. There seems to be no exit strategy. We are just waiting for updates.”

Mr Bezgin said the loss of income from sales would impact on his ability to pay rent, which is more than £70,000 a year.

Helen Phelan, landlady of the Mother Red Cap in Archway, said: “My concern is getting the mortgage paid and generally with rates. The ongoing costs of keeping everything going over lockdown adds up. Cellars have to be paid, electricity has to be paid. It is a lot of worry for us publicans.

“We are anticipating how the hell we are going to pay our bills.”

Unlike the first lockdown earlier this year, pubs that want to sell takeaway drinks can only take customers’ orders online or by phone.

Ms Phelan said the system was not suitable for all clientele, adding: “The pub is a great contact place for the older generation. People in their mid-60s come here and meet up to have a few little drinks.

“It is a daily routine on them and they are going to be impacted as well.”

A government spokes­person said: “We recognise that these are extremely challenging circumstances for pubs and the hospitality industry. Public health and safety remains our number one priority and that is why pubs and other hospitality venues cannot serve alcohol on site to take away to prevent people from gathering outside their premises.

“However, they can sell alcohol as part of delivery services, including through click and collect, over the telephone and by other remote methods of ordering for collection, provided customers do not congregate as groups once they have picked up their order.”

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