THOSE owning, running or working in pubs, restaurants and live entertainment venues must be furious at the kick in the teeth they have been given.
The second lockdown of the year did very little for Rotherham as the borough has emerged with almost the same restrictions in place as previous.
We all know the reasons why it was implemented, but unless you were a pub, restaurant, gym or independent store lockdown didn’t really happen this time.
It didn’t have the same feel as it did in March. The roads were just as busy, many shops were open, but people were more despondent and felt they had nothing to look forward to. Those in the hospitality industry must still feel this way.
Despite adhering to every restriction asked of them and spending thousands of pounds on safety measures when they reopened in the summer for the government’s much vaunted Eat Out To Help Out scheme, they will remain closed for at least the next two weeks, even in villages, where surely a pub could serve 30-50 people food and drink of an evening without much problem.
That’s 30-50 people whose kids will already have been at school, they themselves may have gone to the gym, been swimming or shopping, got pampered at the beauty parlour, had a tattoo and come into contact with hundreds of people everywhere. They will have mixed everywhere except the pub, restaurant or live venue in tier 3 Rotherham.
Christmas menus have been prepared, promotional material printed and ready to go, staffing organised, budgets set — but, until at least December 16 when a review is promised, all to no avail. These places must be on tenterhooks waiting for what amounts to a last-minute decision on their immediate Christmas futures and possibly their long-term viabilities.
Until that date, hospitality will remain frozen and supply chains will also be broken, with companies involved shedding thousands of jobs. The Cutlers Arms described last week’s announcement as being “the death of so many pubs, breweries, restaurants” and added: “To our fellow publicans and anyone in hospitality — we stand with you in disgust at the unfair treatment of hospitality.”
It’s not just hospitality either. Throughout lockdown the big stores remained open, we were told, because they sold essential items such as food and drink. They did, but you can hardly call tinsel, Christmas decorations and wrapping, CDs, DVDs, scented candles and toiletry gift sets essential though, can you?
Nice to have, but not essential. Unless, of course, you are one of Rotherham’s small, independent shops relying on sales of these products to earn enough money to buy genuinely essential items.
The owners of businesses forced to close have seen supermarkets allowed to sell anything they wanted. They must also be extremely worried. Some will have spent their life-savings fitting out a shop and stocking it, only to be told to close while a big store nearby is inexplicably allowed to sell the very items — or similar — that they hoped would bring customers through their doors.
Let us hope local people support them as they now open their doors to the public again as part of the government’s re-imagined tier 3, which bizarrely lumps the whole of South Yorkshire together as one, ignoring differentials between the various towns, Sheffield and outlying villages.
It feels like an attack on the north, especially when areas in other parts of the country have been placed in lower tiers despite having higher “R” rates.
It’s nonsense, illogical and will have long-term consequences for a borough that has been struggling for decades, possibly even hitting town centre regeneration plans.
When the world emerges from this it will be a very different, darker place.