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Tier 2 pubs prepare for influx of Greater Manchester drinkers

Tier 2 pubs prepare for influx of Greater Manchester drinkers
"Everyone knows you have to be a bit mad to be in this industry." It is just two weeks since the new management team took over at The Travellers Rest and already they are in at the deep end. Partners Lauren Marsh and Kane Baker are among thousands working in Greater Manchester's hospitality sector who…

“Everyone knows you have to be a bit mad to be in this industry.”

It is just two weeks since the new management team took over at The Travellers Rest and already they are in at the deep end.

Partners Lauren Marsh and Kane Baker are among thousands working in Greater Manchester’s hospitality sector who are now adjusting to the Tier 3 restrictions which came into force today.

To add to the confusion, their pub in Lowton, near Wigan, is just yards from the border with both Cheshire and Merseyside.

“We’re in no man’s land here,” said Ms Marsh.

“Our address is under Warrington, which is Tier 2, but our pub is licensed to Wigan Council, which is Tier 3.

“A mile down the road and it is completely different.”

Warrington Council revealed yesterday that it had entered into talks with the government about entering into Tier 3 – and since then it has been confirmed that the area will enter into Tier 3 restrictions next week.

However Tier 2 restrictions will remain in place this weekend.

According to the official government guidance, pubs and bars in Tier 3 areas may only serve alcohol alongside a ‘substantial meal’

Taking over a pub in the midst of a pandemic was a risk, but the couple, both in their mid-20s, are up for the challenge.

Hospitality businesses such as theirs are still allowed to serve alcohol beverages to customers, but only as long as it is accompanied by a ‘substantial meal’.

In order to adhere to the new rules, they have created a new bar menu, which includes tapas, curry and chilli dishes.

Although about 70pc of the pub’s takings already come from food, the pair admit to being slightly worried about what impact the new rules may have.

A deal has been agreed to move Warrington into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions

“It is there at the back of your mind with what is going on,” explained Mr Baker, 25.

“A lot of the pubs are around us are closing. They don’t get a lot of footfall for dining whereas we are known for our food.

“For them, it is more beneficial to pay their staff furlough.”

They believe businesses such as theirs have been unfairly penalised by the government.

Mr Baker explained: “Hospitality businesses probably amount to about one third of the country’s economy.

“The way they keep penalising us is just wrong.”

“It is very confusing,” added Ms Marsh.

Manchester City Centre on Thursday night, just before Tier 3 restrictions come in to force

“Trying to relay all the rules to customers and your staff, they get angry at you when you are trying to keep to all these different rules which are changing all the time.

“It’s difficult to keep on top of.

“We are in Greater Manchester but we are a completely different establishment to a bar in Manchester city centre.

“I think they should be more selective.”

The pub is just yards from the border with Newton-le-Willows, in Merseyside, where Tier 3 restrictions have been in place for more than a week.

Ms Marsh says it has been almost impossible to police people crossing the border to visit the pub.

Pubs in nearby Warrington are only subject to Tier 2 rules for now, and there are fears that drinkers from Greater Manchester may descend on the area this weekend.

Inside the Crown and Kettle on the final night for some time

However, Ms Marsh and Mr Baker hope the adjustments they have made will be enough to keep customers visiting.

Ms Marsh said: “We do have a lot of regulars who come in every day, same times, same drinks.

“There is always that worry that customers will just go down the road, but you have to do everything you can to get that custom coming into your establishment.

“We have just created two outside dining pods as well, but obviously outside is now household dining only under Tier 3.”

The difficulties with ensuring all customers are adhering to the rules also extend to household mixing.

Under Tier 3 restrictions, people are not allowed to meet with others outside of their household/support bubble in a private garden ‘or in most outdoor public venues’, including beer gardens.

“You can’t prove it unless you ask for every form of ID,” said Ms Marsh.

“With the amount of people that come through the door, it is ridiculous to try and keep on top of it.

“We are just taking their word that they are from the same household, really.”

While they acknowledge that there will be difficulties over the next few months, Ms Marsh and Mr Baker say they are ‘confident’ of coming out of the other side.

Booking are continuing to come in ‘thick and fast’, even after the restrictions were announced on Tuesday.

Mr Baker added: “They say fortune favours the bold, so hopefully if we crack on and get people through the door we will make a success of it.

“If we can get through this, we can get through anything.”

The Plough Inn, in Warrington

Just over a mile south west at The Plough Inn, it is a different story.

Andrew Swift is the landlord at the pub, which falls under Warrington and is therefore subject to Tier 2 restrictions.

However, the pub is sandwiched between Greater Manchester and Merseyside and Mr Swift says he is expecting a ‘surge of people’ this weekend as people from nearby areas try to get around the restrictions.

“I think we will get battered,” said Mr Swift.

“We are right in the middle of Manchester and Liverpool and there are not many other pubs around here.

“If you think of the size of Greater Manchester and Liverpool, we are just a sliver in the middle. It’s crazy.

“We get a lot of people travelling from those areas anyway, you can tell from their accents.

“Friday night will be the test.”

Mr Swift says he is not worried about the prospect of people from Tier 3 areas descending on his pub, but anticipates that he will have to turn people away.

“We are only a small pub,” he said.

“We can only take 40 people at most with social distancing.”

Mr Swift says he will probably end up shutting the pub temporarily.

After a tough few months during the first lockdown, trade began to pick up at The Plough Inn after it reopened in early July.

However, that all changed when new rules came in, claimed Mr Swift.

He said: “Before everyone had to wear masks, we were really busy. When they brought these restrictions in it went downhill.

“We lost about 50-60pc of trade in three weeks.

“A lot of customers are not coming in. We have a lot of older people round here and they do not want to come into a confined environment.

“A lot of pubs will struggle.”

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