Shropshire hospitality hit again as Tier 3 cancels New Year's Eve plans

The hospitality industry has been hit again, with venues forced to shut their doors when Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin were placed into Tier 3 of the Government's Covid restrictions.

John Ellis, landlord of The Crown Inn, Oakengates
John Ellis, landlord of The Crown Inn, Oakengates

The decision was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, amid concerns about rising Covid-19 cases, and means a raft of more stringent conditions.

Pubs, which were able to open in Tier 2, as long as they served a substantial meal, are no longer able to open – although they can operate as takeaway.

Landlords have shared their frustration at learning the news hours before they were forced to close, with plans and New Year's Eve bookings torn to shreds.

John Ellis, who keeps The Crown Inn at Oakengates, has been forced to close again, just weeks after starting to offer food to comply with the Tier 2 regulations.

He said the pub would continue to trade as an off-licence, as it had since March.

Shane Parr at Stonehouse Brewery in Oswestry

Mr Ellis, who has kept the pub for more than 25 years, said the tighter restrictions were a major blow, but were not unexpected.

He expected tight regulations to be in place for several months to come.

"We have lost Christmas, we have lost New Year, and we're going to lose Easter," he said.

"Two weeks ago Matt Hancock said twice that he expected things would be back to normal after Easter, he used the words quite pointedly.

"In December the Government extended the furlough scheme until April, and that is everything we need to know.

"We saw it coming, which is why we ran the stock of beer down, there's no point buying it if you're not going to be able to sell it."

He said he was disappointed with the way the Government continually left announcements until the last minute.

James Hitchin, landlord of both The Alb and Bombos in Shrewsbury

James Hitchin, landlord of both The Alb and Bombos in Shrewsbury, said the venues had taken bookings for 160 people on New Year's Eve which all had to be cancelled.

He said a lot of pubs would be in the same position, leading to large amounts of food being wasted unless it can be distributed quickly elsewhere.

"I think it was maybe the right choice to protect people because they are concerned about the growing spread of the virus but it's lastminute.com management of the pandemic," James said.

"We plan our menus two weeks in advance. You are not giving people enough time.

"I feel for a lot of the country pubs which have real ales, it will have to go down the drain."

He said pubs needed to be able to access financial support faster and believes there should be an extended reprieve from paying business rates to allow the industry to recover.

"We did takeaways before when we first closed, but I don't think there's going to be the same trade so we've made the decision not to this time," James added.

Adam Caton is the owner of The White Hart in Shifnal and also recently opened The Kings Yard micro pub in the town.

Owner of The White Hart pub in Shifnal, Adam Caton

The pubs had bookings for more than 150 people on New Year's Eve between them, but have been forced to close due to the Tier 3 restrictions.

They are, however, offering takeaway beer.

Adam said: "Both pubs were fully booked. It's a blow.

"We use the local butchers and we had to let them down.

"I feel angry but I understand they are under a lot of pressure in relation to the spread of the virus.

"I'm not shocked – I knew this was coming a long time ago – but I'm disappointed in the manner it was done. We could have had more time.

"The Kings Yard officially opened on December 20 and it got a great response.

"I am confident for the future but I feel that hospitality has been an afterthought to the Government."

Stonehouse Brewery in Oswestry will again be offering a takeaway service after its restaurant had to close under the tighter restrictions.

People will also be able to visit the off-licence at the brewery to buy bottled beers.

Shane Parr, who runs the business, said: "A lot of the pubs I've spoken to, they are really annoyed there was so little notice about this.

"Everyone takes bookings and you can either provide a takeaway service or throw it away at cost."

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