From May 17, England will be on step three of the government’s roadmap out of the coronavirus national lockdown. The hospitality sector will allow customers inside their premises with hotels and B&B’s open again.
Businesses have struggled financially through lockdown, none more so than the hospitality sector. Whilst pubs have been able to open outdoors since April 12, all pubs and restaurants will now welcome customers indoors.
This is a relief to Tim Heathfield, manager of The Muggleton Inn, Maidstone. He said: “We lost over £1m in sales and threw away over £20k in stock all while having to pay rent and bills.”
A branch manager of a nationwide restaurant chain, who asked to be anonymous, said: “Times were very tough, we almost had to close our branch.”
Struggling to survive is a statement said by many businesses over the last year, and many sports facilities felt the same. Under new regulations up to 10,000 spectators can attend open live events. Local football club Tonbridge Angels faced mounting difficulties.Embed from Getty Images
Jim Rowe, communications manager for Tonbridge Angels, said: “It’s been enormously difficult. We received £30K per month through a deal brokered between the government, the National League and the National Lottery, but this only lasted until December 2020 when it was unexpectedly stopped.
“In addition to cover our basic day-to-day running costs in running the stadium, we had to use some of the money we received from our FA Cup run during the preceding Autumn. We have of course been grateful for local authority assistance as a result of a business interruption grant and a freeze on council tax, both of which have helped out club survive.”
Mental health has been detrimental to many over the last year. A survey by mental health charity Young Minds in February shows in particular how young people have struggled.
- 75% of respondents agreed they found the current lockdown harder to cope than the previous ones.
- 67% believe the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.
- 79% believe their mental health would improve once restrictions are lifted.
This is echoed by the restaurant manager, who said: “People have been saying to us how good it’s felt to be able to get out the house. We’ve just got to create an environment where people feel safe.”
Mr Heathfield was concerned about how his staff were going to deal with coming out of lockdown, he said: “Mental health is going to be challenging.
“Staff will feel apprehensive about coming back to work and as a company we will need to invest a lot of time with our teams to ensure they are okay, not just at work but at home too.” A small club like Tonbridge Angels is vital within the community. They were crucial during the lockdown helping local charities, as well as their players and manager checking up on their fan’s health.
Mr Rowe said: “I believe that most of our regular supporters have missed hugely the companionship, camaraderie, and unique flavour that one gets from watching non-league football.
“For some it can be their main outlet of the week and whilst a few may be a little nervous returning to the stadium, we shall be concentrating on making it as safe as possible for everyone.”
Statistics from UK Crime Stats shows that there has been an increase in the total amount of crime in Kent since before lockdown had lifted. The most worrying statistic is the increasing number of anti-social behaviour and violent crimes after a decline during the winter lockdown.
This falls in line with the national average, as the Office of National Statistics states the level of crime in England and Wales decreased by 7% between July to September 2020 and October and December 2020.
“The last lockdown being in the winter means people have stayed indoors. I don’t think it is just the pubs alone causing a rise. I think a combination of people being told what they can and can’t do in their daily lives,” said Mr Heathfield.
On the back of an announcement of zero coronavirus deaths last week, there are fears that the Indian coronavirus variant could stop the lifting of lockdown restrictions. Health experts predict that the strain will become dominant in the UK soon. Cases over the weekend have increased by 75% and Boris Johnson will delay plans over relaxing social-distancing. Trials are still underway to test how the vaccine deals with the Indian variant.
Mr Heathfield said: “I think Wetherspoons management will be watching very closely, and they will be following any government guidance to the letter. They have procedures in place should another lockdown happen. But obviously we are concerned and monitoring.”