Lockdown rules in parts of West Midlands ‘may help pubs and cafes’

Stock image of six drinks

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionGroups of a maximum of six people, from more than one household, can still visit pubs, restaurants and shops

Pubs and cafe owners in parts of the West Midlands subject to a strict lockdown around household visits have said trade may improve as a result.

Under the rules, more than 1.6 million residents of Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull cannot meet with other households in homes or private gardens.

But different groups can still go out to shops, restaurants and other venues together in a maximum group of six.

Some venues have told the BBC they thought it could boost custom.

There is a hope friends and family look will look for ways to safely socialise – business that is much needed after a long closure during the national lockdown.

image copyrightThe Red Lion
image captionLockdown restrictions in Sandwell could benefit pubs in the area, according to the owner of The Red Lion

“It will have a bit of an impact, but as people can’t go to other households, the only place to go is the pub,” said Satnam Purewal, owner of The Red Lion, in West Bromwich.

Mr Purewal said it had been “hard work” to reopen after lockdown and make the place ready for customers.

He has spent “a few thousand” on measures such as visors, face masks and extra staff.

The pub owner said his staff were “strict” on track-and-trace and this had ensured customers “kept coming back”.

But the fear for Mr Purewal is a return to “full lockdown”.

“I’m always wary and planning for the future in case that does happen.”

image copyrightRebecca Jones
image captionTrade is still down at The Two Mugs, said co-owner Rebecca Jones

For many venues, business has not yet reached pre-lockdown levels.

Rebecca Jones, from The Two Mugs, in Shirley, Solihull, said trade was still down by 30% on the period before March, but she believed the “strange restriction” could help.

“People will still continue to come out for a bit of normality,” she said.

Mrs Jones, who jointly owns the café with twin sister Natalie Copewell, 34, said it had changed the way it operated due to the pandemic.

It no longer stays open in the evening, closing at 15:00 BST, and the layout has been altered to allow for social distancing.

Mrs Jones said the meals menu was probably about half as varied as it used to be and it had been “expensive to get hold of our normal stock”.

image copyrightRebecca Jones
image captionRebecca Jones [left], pictured with twin sister Natalie Copewell, said she thought the new restrictions would mean they “are busy”

Mrs Jones said: “People aren’t coming out as much post lunchtime… [But] I think [the restrictions will] encourage groups if they can’t meet at home.”

She also admitted she was “quite worried” about another full lockdown.

Mrs Jones said: “We would go back to just doing takeaways if needs be.”

image copyrightThe Vine
image captionThe Vine has stopped most lunchtime services as people continue to work from home

Other ongoing restrictions due to the virus have had a knock-on impact on some businesses.

The lack of West Bromwich Albion fans at The Hawthorns meant a fall in income at Bharat Patel’s pub The Vine.

However, he said overall takings had returned to the level they used to see before lockdown, which he puts down to them “doing it by the book”.

“A lot of customers are coming in and saying other places don’t feel as safe,” he said.

“We’ve got a good reputation and we don’t want to tarnish it.”

Lunchtime service has been scrapped between Monday and Thursday, due to the amount of people working from home.

Mr Patel admitted the new restrictions in Sandwell could be a benefit to pubs but he was just taking it day by day.

“This is going to be a long process. Luckily all our staff have adapted and our customers have been really good, no incidents,” he added.

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