Monday 12 October 2020

Death by a thousand cuts

At the time of writing, the general view is that pubs in our area (the Liverpool City Region: Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral), are going to be closed in the latest measures against COVID-19. As a campaigning organisation, CAMRA has written to the government demanding that they release the evidence that pubs, along with other hospitality outlets, are hotbeds of coronavirus infection. To date, no reply has been received. 

My own experience as a regular pubgoer is that pubs are taking their responsibilities for the health and safety of their staff and customers very seriously: they have to because they do not want their businesses to be closed down. The restrictions currently in place have significantly changed the experience of going to the pub, and have also reduced the numbers of people they can take in.

Most pubs are small, individual businesses that are not supported by the pub company that owns the building. Unlike in the past when most pubs were run by breweries who had a salaried manager on site, nowadays the pub is a stand-alone business with the licensee renting the premises from the owning company. The success or failure of these businesses rests entirely upon the licensee. If a pub fails, the owning company simply has a valuable piece of property to sell for redevelopment, while the licensee loses everything.

One pub landlady told me a few days ago that she is slowly going bankrupt during the current restrictions; another enforced pub closure will only speed up that process. Hospitality accounts for a huge amount of employment in our economy, and pubs provide a valuable antidote to isolation, especially nowadays when the number of single-occupied households is at its highest ever.

Closing pubs is an easy fix for a government that wishes to show that it is 'doing something'. It is not enough to do something: it is essential to do the right thing, especially when thousands of small businesses and jobs are at stake.

► This is adapted from an article that I wrote for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.


  1. Well said, Nev. It is really worrying. They should be looking to the likes of warehouses where employees are forced to work in close proximity to each other, and supporting people who can't afford to self isolate.

  2. So, as you predicted Nev, Liverpool city centre has copped it in terms of pubs being forced to close.

    Having just watched Johnson's farcical news conference, there's still no evidence being put forward to link pubs with rising infection rates.

    Gesture politics at its worst, and my heart goes out to everyone in Liverpool who works in the hospitality sector, and to all those whose livelihoods is threatened.

    1. The new restrictions come in from Wednesday, so I've decided I'm going out on Tuesday night for a pre-lockdown pint or three.

  3. So far as I am aware no government in the world has released the 'scientific findings' which lead to closures/curtailment of the hospitality industry,which leads to the conclusion that there are no such findings. The real public health problem is cross infection in hospitals and this needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency rather than wasting effort on pointless lockdowns.

  4. I had a last pint or two (Leeds Pale Ale for those interested in such things) in the Crow's Nest, Crosby, on Tuesday. All along we have had QR codes and signing in, staff masked and generally ensuring we kept our distance. No problems. It is only this morning (Friday) that I hear any mention of closing supermarket or chain off-licenses which have seen large groups frequenting since the 10pm rule came in.

  5. Following on from my comment above, I'm not including places such as bottle shops in my catch-all "off-licenses". They tend to cater for a different market, and could be useful in educating some folks about decent beer.


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