Last orders for many Oldham pubs

Oldham publicans will be able to summon up little festive cheer as they face a bleak mid-winter with the latest Christmas lockdown. In a speech in Parliament last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP announced that the Borough will be in Tier-3 once the national lockdown ends at midnight on December 2 meaning that for the foreseeable future no pubs will be able to open. It is also unlikely to change when this is first reviewed in two weeks.

The Oldham Liberal Democrats are concerned that for many struggling pubs another lockdown over what should be for publicans the busiest trading period of the year will lead to permanent closure. Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, wants to see the government do more to help struggling pubs. He also feels Oldham Council can play its part.

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in pubs across the UK. Landlords have invested financially and emotionally in their businesses and yet time-after-time they are being kicked in the teeth as government financial support for the sector is insufficient. Many owners are living without any income and fast depleting their savings. Staff lay-offs are increasing, and, in my own ward, one pub has so far certainly closed for good. I suspect it will be the first of many.”

Howard Sykes

Pubs have endured two national lockdowns, invested millions in their staff and facilities to make pubs Covid – safe for customers, and adapted to requirements to record Track and Trace details, to only serving alcohol with ‘substantial meals’, to serving customers at tables instead of at the bar, and closing at 10pm.

From December 3, all but three areas of the UK will be in Tiers 2 and 3. Oldham is in Tier-3 meaning that all pubs will remain closed. Even if local conditions change sufficiently for the Borough to move into Tier-2, only pubs serving ‘substantial meals’ will be able to open. Pubs can however continue to sell alcohol and food to customers through home deliveries, takeaways and drive-through purchases if items are pre-ordered.

Councillor Sykes believes it would be unlikely for Oldham to move into Tier-1 for many months, meaning ‘wet’ pubs will be at significant risk of closure. He added: “Smaller establishments which serve beer, but no food, will have no realistic prospect of opening for months, and for many such pubs in Oldham the latest lockdown could represent last orders.”

“I want to see the government providing pubs with a bespoke package of financial support that enables them to survive until they can reopen. I would also like to see Oldham Council promote pubs which are selling products online to give them some income at this difficult time.”

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