Yorkshire’s pubs and restaurants will need our support long after lockdown ends: Jayne Dowle

ACCORDING to new research by a financial services company, I need to drink 122 glasses of wine to do my bit and help return the hospitality industry’s economy to pre-pandemic levels.

Is Boris Johnson doing enough to support pubs as the lockdown eases?
Is Boris Johnson doing enough to support pubs as the lockdown eases?

Or I could down 124 pints of beer, scoff 976 packets of crisps or enjoy 40 roast dinners. This would all be helping give the sector the estimated £25.66bn cash boost it needs to get back on its feet.

I’m telling you this because, of course, from today in England, pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve customers indoors, as long as social distancing measures are adhered to.

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In addition, hotels, guest houses and B&Bs are permitted to welcome us all back with open arms. I’ve been doing my bit for that too, booking a hotel (with flexible cancellation) in London for October, when I’m taking my daughter to the Victoria Palace Theatre to watch Hamilton, a trendy musical about the American War of Independence, for her 16th birthday treat.

Is Boris Johnson doing enough to support pubs as the lockdown eases?

I’ve booked the tickets for that too, shrugging off the caution of the last 15 months with what feels dangerously like wild abandon. However, as older people – especially those who’ve barely seen a soul since last March – keep reminding me, you only live once.

Therefore, I have another confession to make. I keep Googling flights to Belfast and wondering if we could perhaps risk a mini-break sometime in June. I’ve never been to Northern Ireland, but I dream of exploring the amazing coastline. If I’ve learned anything since the start of 2020, it’s to seize the moment.

Meanwhile, I’m planning to make a gentle start on my 124 glasses this Friday evening when I will join a group of friends on a trip to a Thai restaurant in Ossett.

It’s been a while. More than a year, actually, since we’ve all been together, and the excitement is already bubbling like a glass of over-filled prosecco. Whilst my 18-year-old son was first out of the traps to the village local in April, when pubs and bars were allowed to serve outside for the first time since last year, I’ve been slightly more circumspect.

Is Boris Johnson doing enough to support pubs as the lockdown eases?

Perhaps I’m getting old, but I just couldn’t face the prospect of going to all that trouble of booking an outdoor table, only to arrive, sit down, order, and then get caught in a hail-storm, thunder, lightning, or with the weather we’ve been having recently, a combination of all three at once.

And also, I found the Prime Minister’s insistence on the great British pub as the panacea for all ills more than slightly irritating. Especially as he didn’t seem to notice their existence pre-pandemic when they were pulling down their shutters permanently at the rate of 40 a month.

All of these closed-down pubs were then demolished or converted into other types of use such as homes and offices. Cost pressures, low margins and business rates were blamed for forcing them to the wall.

Clearly, such issues have not evaporated like an open bottle of vino during the long months of lockdown. Whilst this grand reopening should give us all cause to celebrate, what would be more heart-warming would be some indication of a long-term government plan for understanding and supporting the hospitality industry, which is worth billions to the UK.

With respect to all the amazing pubs out there, including the many world-beating establishments in our own region, “the pub” as I suspect Mr Johnson understands it – a hideaway for beleaguered husbands sneaking crafty pints behind the backs of their wives – is hardly desirable. Merrie England? I don’t think so.

This is a massive leap into the unknown and the Government would be glib to assume that everything will suddenly snap back into place, especially with the threat of new variants of coronavirus hanging over us.

“With the latest estimates suggesting that the UK’s food and beverage industry lost at least £25.66bn due to Covid-19, we wondered how much every person in the UK would need to spend in order to reach pre-pandemic levels,” says a spokesperson for Company Debt, the firm which did the research. “We came up with a figure of 124 pints of beer per adult, based on a figure of 52 million adults in the UK.”

I’ve done few sums myself and, over the course of a year, this is going to work out at a couple of drinks, packets of crisps or dinners a week each. I think that we could all manage this, one way or another.

The question is can Mr Johnson – and his government – also do their bit? Or when the novelty of getting back to what passes for normal wears off, will it be last orders for good?

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