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A LONG READ BUT A LONG ROAD AHEAD Monday, August 2, 2021 8:43 AM

Back in March when the first Lockdown was imposed on us things were very different.  

Leading up to that moment we had traded at full capacity. Yes the instant lockdown was daunting but financial we'd had a good year so far.  Turning our little bar into a bottle shop was done overnight. Furlough was in place, people were saving money by not partying or eating out most weekends. Although people were essentially trapped in their home, their online spending behaviour was more frivolous. Summer helped too, warm weather meant the need for cold beer escalated. Our orders where flying in, so much so that we ran out of draft crowlers. We felt that we'd ridden the storm and come July we were ready to throw open our doors once more to welcome our customers back.  

We took the decision to take our time reopening, wanting to get the new measures right to make the environment a safe place. Reopening on that first day was terrifying, we felt the pressure to get it right and the awful consequences of getting it wrong. We worked together everyday for 2 months to ensure the new systems we put in place were fool proof, again to keep our customers and staff safe. It was a great day when we welcomed our staff back. We felt like we bombarded them with so much information but they took the information in and were raring to go. During the time that we were allowed to trade we adjusted to every new restriction thrown at us. From the social distancing, hand sanitising, table service to begin with, followed by adjusting to the new track & trace app, making face masks compulsory and the rule of six. Nearly every customer respected the rules and the position we were in to enforce them however some didn't take it so well by verbally abusing the staff. It felt like everyday a new restriction was brought into action, with each day our trade disappearing before our very eyes. The 10pm curfew didn't help, ringing last orders at 9.30pm was heartbreaking, people not bothering to go out because what was the point for an hour or two? Our stress levels were through the roof, having police vans lined up on that first Friday to ensure our doors were locked was so intimidating. The real kicker was the same household rule. On the Saturday we had 14 people in the bar and we were at capacity. It was upsetting to see regulars sitting on separate tables, not being able to talk to one another which was their way of letting off steam when coping with this horrible situation. Having to deal with angry customers who's line was usually well Wetherspoons let us all sit together. It was a desperate situation and our takings were 60% down, this meant we couldn't afford to pay our staff, sending them home on the Sunday, 2 weeks before the local lockdown was horrendous and not being able to give them an answer as to when they'd return. Our only solution to this dire situation was a short but severe lockdown like back in March. Nip the rising figures in the bud. In our eyes the quicker we could reduce the figures the quicker we could get back to normality.  

So then came the tier 3 local lockdown. 

Not exactly the lockdown we'd be hoping for. A half hearted closing of bars and other sectors, while allowing bars who served food to remain open. The unknown is a terrifying thing the not knowing when we'll be allowed to reopen is hard to deal with.  

This lockdown is destroying bars and small independent restaurants. Straight away we noticed that the spending habits have changed, people are worried about their income with the new furlough scheme not paying enough, job security, Christmas looming and are tightening their belts and for this I can't blame them, we ourselves are doing just that. With the first lockdown we had a good few months of trade behind us, however we are going into this lockdown already 60% down. Orders are trickling in but not enough to keep us afloat and with each day our positivity is seeping away. We are having sleepless nights, trying desperately to think of things we can do to keep our head above water but the reality is our future is more uncertain than ever. We are by no means on our own in this, many of our friends who have their independent business are in the same boat. 

This isn't a plea to spend all your money on us more of a stop and think when buying your beer. The £1 you might save on a beer could actually help save a bar that is loved by all.