Mid Sussex pubs voice frustration at delay to ‘Freedom Day’

Pub and restaurant owners in Mid Sussex have expressed their dismay at the UK government’s decision to delay the full lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 12:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 5:31 pm

The government was set to lift all limits on social contact on June 21 but Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last night (June 14) that some restrictions would have to stay until July 19.

The number of guests at weddings will not be limited but hospitality venues will have to adhere to social distancing rules.

Table service will still be required with a limit on six people (or two families) per table inside.

The Talbot, High Street, Cuckfield. Picture: Google Street View
The Talbot, High Street, Cuckfield. Picture: Google Street View

“It’s very disappointing,” said Dean Harding, owner of The Talbot in Cuckfield.

“The hospitality industry seems to be the scapegoat,” he said, adding that his guests must remain at their tables while some 25,000 people can go to Wembley Stadium and drink from a bar.

“I was at Wembley Stadium myself for the FA cup final, albeit with a negative test,” he said.

“It seems to be disproportionate.”

Dean said several bookings for celebrations at The Talbot had been cancelled and he now hopes the government will extend financial support to the hospitality sector.

“You’re expecting businesses to work under restrictions yet we still have bills to pay,” said Dean, adding that the furlough scheme should be amended so pubs do not have to contribute as much.

James Cuthbertson director of The Lockhart Tavern in The Broadway, Haywards Heath, said he wants the government to recognise the importance of hospitality.

“We need to just get open,” he said, adding that operating normally will prevent further job losses and stop more businesses from closing.

“The industry is run by really talented people and we’re not stupid,” James added, saying that pubs and restaurants had been dealing with the pandemic for 16 months.

“We’ve implemented very strict procedures while supermarkets have been allowed to cut loose and do what they want,” he said.

James said he is not too worried about pubs like his, which usually have groups of about six, but said he is concerned about nightclubs and establishments that need a lot of customers.

He said he is particularly worried about pubs that thrive on the sport scene and were ‘ready to go’ on June 21.

“I’m gutted for the guys that waited a year for the football and then can’t make the most of it,” he said.

James said he was also disappointed about the ‘poor communication’ of Boris Johnson’s leadership and feels that the government is ‘not following the numbers’.

“Yes, there’s a new variant but there isn’t the pressure on the NHS,” he said.

“I think we all need to live with this,” he added, saying that people should take their own carefully calculated risks.

Lucy Sanchez, one of the owners of Plaza Uno in Church Walk, Burgess Hill, said: “To tell you the truth we feel like we don’t know if we’re coming or going.”

“One minute it’s one thing, the next minute it’s a different thing,” she said, adding that the current situation felt as confused as the first lockdown.

“This feels exactly the same,” said Lucy. “It feels like a never ending story.”

Lucy said Plaza Uno appreciates all the help the government has given them but said it was upsetting to see other industries not dealing with such strict rules.

“You see the shops around the street and it feels like there’s no restrictions,” she said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be a review of the restrictions after two weeks and was ‘confident’ the delay would end after four.

This delay to the full lifting of restrictions comes after cases rose thanks to the more transmissible Delta variant of Covid, which was first identified in India.