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Landlord: Shutting ‘old person’s pub’ will fuel loneliness

'At the moment I see them walking around Camden with nothing to do'

18 December, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

The Cock Tavern in Somers Town [Ewan Munro]

HOPES among pub landlords that they might be able to claw back some business over the Christmas period have been dashed after the government put London under “Tier 3”’ virus restrictions.

While shops, hairdressers and gyms can continue, bars have been told they must wait before customers are allowed back in.

On Tuesday evening, there were reports of regulars making the most of what was likely to be their last chance to be inside their favourite locals until after Christmas. The latest regulations follow the rapid rise in Covid-19 infections heading into the final countdown to Christmas Day.

Pubs have already been battered by the first lockdown and then a series of rules on reopening, which included the requirement of serving a “substantial meal”.

Robert Taylor, manager of the Cock Tavern in Somers Town, has already seen the pub closed for six weeks because of the food rule. “For us it wasn’t worth opening up because we don’t have a kitchen and can’t serve food and the owners didn’t want to be chucking people out after they’d eaten.”

He added: “It’s difficult because this is an old person’s pub really. It’s like their front room and it’s where they socialise. Many of our customers will live by themselves and this is their community. At the moment I see them walking around Camden with nothing to do.”

A Christmas ‘amnesty’ on Covid-19 rules is currently for families looking to find some way to be together, although even these measures were the subject of close debate at Westminster this week. It will not affect the current ban on pubs opening up to customers.

The British Beer and Pub Association has warned that the restrictions in London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex could result in more than 1,000 bar jobs being lost and some pubs not reopening.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said “the survival of the great British pub as we know it hangs in the balance.”

Under Tier 3, nobody is allowed to meet socially indoors people they do not live with or who are not in a support bubble. People can meet in groups of up to six in some outdoor places, including parks and beaches. Pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to run takeaway services but landlords say this will not come close to the normal Christmas trade.

Publican Susan Bowler at the Queen’s Larder in Queen’s Square, Holborn said: “We’ve no how idea how long this is going to last and my staff are back on furlough and will continue to get paid. That’s the important thing. They are my priority as it’s them who make this place successful.”

Ms Bowler added: “I’m not going to get upset about something I can’t do anything about. It won’t last forever and this will all soon be a distant memory. We’re just looking forward to next year.”

Pat Logue, the landlord at the Sheephaven Bay in Camden Town, who has raised £1,000 for the CNJ’s hamper appeal, warned things were tough: “This whole thing is turning Morrisons and Tescos into multi-billionaires but we are having to shut.”

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