Bars and breweries in Leeds warn of “catastrophic” impact of 10pm curfew after seeing sharp drop in sales

Bars and breweries in Leeds warn of “catastrophic” impact of 10pm curfew after seeing sharp drop in sales

Saturday, 3rd October 2020, 6:00 am

Hospitality workers in Leeds have raised serious concerns about the future of the industry after seeing a “catastrophic” impact on trade following the introduction of a 10pm curfew.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all bars and restaurants had to close by 10 o’clock from Thursday, September 24 in a bid to tackle rising coronavirus levels.

However, bar owners in Leeds are warning that the curfew has already had a devastating impact on revenue and could lead to closures.

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North Bar and Mojo bar have seen a dip in sales since the 10pm curfew was introduced.

Martin Greenhow, the Managing Director of Mojo bars, said: “The curfew has been catastrophic. We have lost six to seven key hours on a weekend when we've already lost 60 per cent of our capacity.

“When we came back from lockdown we were trading at about 80 per cent of what it was before which wasn’t ideal but with some help it was manageable.

“Along came the curfew and we dropped from 85 per cent to 20.

“The problem for us is we can't recover the lost trade in one Saturday afternoon, which is effectively what we're trying to do.”

Sarah Hardy, Marketing Manager North Brewing Co and North Bar Ltd.

North Brewing Co and the North Bar group reported similar losses, with the flagship bar on New Briggate being the hardest hit.

Sarah Hardy, Marketing Manager North Brewing Co and North Bar Ltd, said: “We saw the effect of the curfew within days of it being introduced.

“Sales in our city centre venues were hit hardest. North Bar saw a drop in sales of over 55% compared to the same week last year.

“Whilst the bars in the suburbs saw stronger sales, they are still operating with reduced capacity to keep people safe and allow for social distancing.

Luke Raven, owner of Ilkley Brewery.

“Data released by Public Health England showed that 3 per cent of infections last week were traced back to bars and restaurants.

“This curfew will have a devastating effect on independent business across Leeds and we unfortunately expect to see businesses that were thriving shut their doors over the winter.”

The curfew has also had a negative effect on the company’s brewery sales, with the company relying on sales via their webshop.

Luke Raven, owner of Ilkley Brewery, has experienced a similar drop in sales, which he believes is due to people being more cautious about going out.

Mr Raven, 39, said: “The curfew has not had a direct impact in terms of people who would have been out drinking, as cask beer is more of an afternoon and early evening drink.

“The indirect impact is confidence. People just aren't going out because they are worried and being much more cautious.

“Since the news started to turn a bit we have seen a very, very quick downturn. Part of that is the pubs being cautious themselves as it's not long ago they had full cellars of beer they had to throw away.

“From a purely business perspective, the biggest difficulty that we have at the moment is being able to plan.

“I know it's hard for the Government but if there was more forward thinking then at least we know what to prepare for.

“At the minute it is just the prospect hanging over us that we could be shut down at any minute. The uncertainty will kill the industry.”

Chris Anderson, 32, runs a company that supplies doormen in Leeds city centre. He says the 10pm curfew has meant his staff have lost a significant portion of their wages.

Mr Anderson said: “Around 50 per cent of our staffing hours are between 10pm and 3am on Friday & Saturday, which means we are now operating at only around 25% of capacity.

“Crucially this means that for many of our team, their wages have seen decreases between 25-75 per cent.

“The original lockdown decimated our cash reserves, and we simply do not have the money to make use of the new job retention scheme - which is completely ill suited to the night time economy.”

He added: “At our partner venues we've seen an extremely high adherence to CoVid secure measures.

“We've only had 4 groups ejected, across multiple sites and 1000s of guests, for failure to adhere to rules since July 4.

“We are now in the frankly ridiculous situation where we are required by law to ask polite, respectful, groups to leave our CoVid Secure venues, that have been fitted out in line with the government's own guidelines, to get on packed trains and night buses, join huge uncontrolled queues for taxis, or to head to completely unsupervised private homes to continue drinking.”

Mr Greenhow, who has opened four more Mojo bars since establishing the Merrion Street bar in 1996, also voiced concerns about large numbers of people being forced out en masse.

He said: “The curfew goes against 15 years worth of licencing laws that work to try to stagger exit times so we don’t have this mad rush into the streets.

“Last Saturday we were fully booked from 2pm until closing. People will pivot their patterns of behaviour so again, why the farce of a curfew?

“People still want to be out and they aren’t stopping enjoying themselves, just take a walk around the off licences and supermarkets. Now they're just doing it in an environment that's far less secure, much less safe than the one that we were providing.”

Mr Greenhow is now backing the #cancelthecurfew campaign, which is calling on the government to either scrap the curfew or provide adequate assistance to the hospitality industry.

He said: “This year has been a massive challenge for our staff but they did a tremendous job taking guests through the new processes and keeping everyone safe.

“We were asked to follow the guidelines, we invested and we delivered. We were vigorous with it.

“We followed the rules and now we're being crucified for it. We did our best. We did exactly as we were asked, and now we've been abandoned.”

Mr Greenhow added: “We’re asking for the Government to either cancel the curfew or provide us with adequate financial help.

“Personally, I know I want to just get back to work. I know my staff want to get back to work.

“But if you’re not going to let us work, please don’t let us drown.”