Bar owners fear worse to come as city escapes Tier 3… for now

Greater Manchester narrowly avoided the closure of hospitality venues earlier this week following fierce opposition from local leaders and trade bodies.

Bars in the area were allowed to stay open after being argued down from Tier 3, with the highest restrictions, to Tier 2.

Crucial to the success of local resistance was the Night Time Industries Association’s threat to take legal action against the closure of the sector again, as part of their ‘save nightlife’ campaign.

NTIA boss Michael Kill said: “This next round of restrictions is hugely disproportionate and unjust, with no scientific rationale or correlation to Public Health England transmission rates, when compared to other key environments.”

Industry figure heads such as Night Time Economy Advisor Sacha Lord and The British Beer and Pub Association are supporting the NTIA’s campaign, as well as large pub organisations including Joseph Holt and JW Lees.

But even without being forced to close, restaurants and pubs under Tier 2 restrictions are struggling financially at reduced capacity as a result of the ongoing 10pm curfew.

Independent, family-run Atlas Bar in Manchester city centre has been vocal in their opposition, hashtagging ‘cancel the curfew’ and ‘keep the lights on’ on their Facebook page, and have signed up in support of the NTIA legal action.

Co-owner Mark Wrigley said: “The 10pm curfew completely annihilated the city centre bars such as ours; it means that people now have no incentive to come into town.”

Concerning the financial impact such measures have had he said: “It’s like limping along with both hands tied behind our backs and blind folded, making 20% of normal takings.”

The business has been forced to lay off some staff and cancel a delivery of beer worth up to £3000 to cut costs and prevent waste.

Chief Executive of UK hospitality Kate Nicholls said about businesses in Tier 2: “They have the worst of both worlds, operating under significant restrictions without the financial support on offer to Tier 3 businesses.”

With a rising case rate and many officials calling for further restrictions there is no guarantee that Manchester bars will remain open much longer.

If forced to close the Atlas Bar would be in a similarly difficult financial position since it has fixed costs of around £3000 per week, so the Government’s offer of £3000 per month would only cover 25% of their expenses.

Mr Wrigley said: “The reality of what the Government is offering is just an insult to business and business owners – we’re just being hung out to dry.

“Andy Burnham is doing a fantastic job standing up, trying to push the Government to do the right thing.”

The Mayor of Manchester teamed up with other Northern leaders in an open letter slamming the Government for treating hospitality workers as ‘second-class citizens’ and demanding a more substantial financial support package for the many businesses on a ‘knife-edge’.

Mr Wrigley added: “This is not about making money this is about how do I lose money at the slowest rate.”

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