Mixed response from West Norfolk businesses ahead of Tier 2 restrictions
It has been a mixed reaction from West Norfolk businesses as they prepare for the national lockdown to end next week.
For entertainment venues, shops, gyms and personal care, December 2 cannot come soon enough as they prepare to fully reopen under the Tier 2 'High Alert' restrictions.
But West Norfolk publicans bemoaned the government's decision, and believe wet-led pubs have been "scapegoated" and "thrown under the bus" after all the efforts they had made to keep customers safe during the pandemic. Many wet-led pubs are expected to be forced to close as a result of the decision.
The Majestic Cinema in Lynn has announced it will be opening its doors to customers again on Friday, December 4 with tickets which had already been purchased being applied to rearranged dates.
And personal care businesses across the country will be reopening regardless of which tier they are in.
Josie Atkins, who runs Rose Beauty at her Reffley home, is looking forward to welcoming her customers back as she is now fully booked leading up to Christmas.
She said she had been disappointed the personal care industry had to close during lockdown as it has been shown to barely contribute to the spread of infection.
Mrs Atkins added: "It is great to be able to come back and I do not need to prepare any more than after the first lockdown. It is just preparing for the madness before the Christmas period.
"Our industry has always had to practice infection control anyway. That is high on our priority so the main thing which has changed for us is wearing face masks and shields. But we are wiping down every single surface between customers rather than just the one you are working on."
During lockdown, she has kept herself busy by selling personal care kits for customers to use at home, as well as focusing on a new cabin which she plans to use instead of her front room.
Whilst Mrs Atkins and the personal care industry are pleased with the government announcement, that is not the case for many publicans.
Being in Tier 2 means pubs and restaurants can only serve alcohol with a proper meal, which will not be feasible for some.
Neal Durose, who runs the White Hart in Lynn with his wife Anita, said: "As a wet-led pub, this new tier is completely unjustified in our opinion.
"After all the hoops we had to jump through in order to make our customers feel safe, it seems as though we have all been used as scapegoats. You are much safer in the controlled environment of a pub than you are in say a supermarket. Providing of course that the pub is doing things correctly in the first place.
"We do not have the capacity or the equipment to produce food and therefore we cannot open as a restaurant. The whole area has been treated unfairly because of the behaviour of the few that have flouted the rules and as a result contracted the virus.
"We eagerly await the review of the current scenario as to whether we can open again before Christmas as this would inevitably show whether we will be able to survive as a business."
Ben Handley owner of The Duck Inn in Stanhoe added: "Single household tables mean that it will probably not be financially viable to open at all.
"Wet-led pubs could be finished by this, but even for pubs that are food based and restaurants this could be the end. Our hearts go out to all our friends and colleagues across the country in this great, safe, industry.
"The hospitality trade has done more than almost every other sector since lockdown one in order to be the safest possible environment for staff and customers, but we have been thrown under the bus once more.
"However, we will be here for our wonderful customers, continuing to provide a safe place to enjoy Christmas. We are also launching a wonderfully exciting Christmas hamper next week so that people will be able to enjoy the food of The Duck at home this Christmas."
Michael Baldwin, owner of the Bank House Hotel and The Wenns Chop and Ale House in Lynn said: “We understand the need for restrictions but hospitality is being severely impacted and for wet-led pubs this is going to be another hammer blow, putting even more livelihoods and business at risk.
"We can only hope that infection rates go in the right direction in order that businesses can at least have some trading over the festive period."
Anthony Goodrich owner of The Rose and Crown in Snettisham also described Matt Hancock's announcement as disappointing.
He said: "It means that our drinking trade, which forms a large part of our business, will come to a standstill yet again.
"The Rose and Crown has always been somewhere that an individual can come to, buy a drink and enjoy the welcoming and convivial atmosphere. To have to have a meal with your drink, and as an individual have to sit at a table on your own, is not an inviting prospect.
"We will get through this but we worry that sadly many principally wet-led pubs will not."
The pub will be starting Christmas roasts next week, for both diners and takeaways, and continues to prepare "full tilt" into the festive season with decorations already up, the fires burning, candles lit and mulled wine on tap.
The situation is equally bleak for pubs in South Lincolnshire who find themselves in Tier 3. These businesses can only serve takeaways and deliveries.
The manager of a Sutton Bridge pub, who did not wish to be named, said he was frustrated with the outcome. He had already been preparing carveries for Wednesday night before the government announcement put paid to that idea.
Across all tiers, people are being asked to wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless they have an exemption.
Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, and window visits.
Regular testing will be offered to up to two family members or friends per resident by Christmas, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support indoor visits with physical contact.
Under the tier 2 rules, non-essential shops and gyms will be able to reopen and outdoor sports will be able to return from December 2.
Exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with those they do not live with or share a support bubble with.