Publicans argue north Northumberland should be excluded from further restrictions

Publicans have argued that licensed premises in north Northumberland should not be subject to further Covid-19 restrictions.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 2:27 pm

New measures to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases are expected to be announced by the Government in the next few days.

It is thought the closure of pubs and restaurants in the worst-affected areas of England could be among the measures.

That would mirror the situation in Scotland’s central belt where pubs and restaurants must close for two weeks from 6pm on Friday.

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Further Covid-19 measures are expected to be brought in.

With the North East already subject to tighter restrictions, publicans in Alnwick are concerned that will be the next step – even though infection rates are much lower than on Tyne and Wear.

Jackie McDougall, landlady at The Blue Bell Inn, said: “If they do that, some pubs will close for good. If you’re not a strong pub with a lot of space it’s very difficult to see a way forward.

"There have been no Covid cases in any pub in Alnwick as far as I know so I don’t know why it would be included anyway. Any closures need to be done area by area. If there are no – or very few – cases in your town you should be allowed to open.

"We’ve been doing track and trace and temperature checks and ensured social distancing is maintained. We’ve done exactly what we were told to do.

Jackie McDougall, landlady at The Blue Bell Inn, Alnwick.

"The town was buzzing after the pubs, restaurants and cafes reopened on July 4 so they’re at the heart of the wider economy. Any further restrictions will have a knock-on effect.”

She is also angry at the Government’s handling of the issue.

“It’s an absolute fiasco,” she said. “It’s the drip, drip, drip of information that’s so frustrating. They should be working with the hospitality sector before making their announcement.

“What the Government doesn’t seem to realise is that this is our livelihoods. It’s a mental stress for me and I can’t sleep at night but it also impacts on my customers who don’t know if they should come.

The George in Alnwick.

"If they are going to close us, I would tell them not to wait until Monday to announce it. We need to be able to prepare. For example, 99.9% of pubs will place their beer orders on a Monday. It’s like Russian roulette at the moment. You just don’t know what’s going to come next.”

Susan Martin, who runs the George Inn and Shepherd’s Rest, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous that Alnwick and the rest of north Northumberland has been included in the North East restrictions. We’ve got a low rate here.”

She says it would be impossible to introduce further physical restrictions in her pubs, especially at The George where there is limited capacity.

"We can’t do any more than we’re doing already,” she said. “We’ve got everyone separated and perspex on the tables. If any further restrictions are brought in we will be closing. It won’t be forever but I can’t do any more.

"I would rather they brought in a two week closure because we just can’t breathe the way things are at the moment. We’re living on the edge.”

They both feel pubs offer a controlled environment and their closure would result in more house parties.

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