Government policy on coronavirus restrictions “kick in the teeth” for Bedford’s hospitality sector

Bedford Esquires. Photo taken pre-coronavirus. Credit: Neil McCarty

With Bedford entering Tier 3 on Saturday (19 December), local business owners have called the Government’s coronavirus (COVOD-19) restrictions policy a “kick in the teeth”

Gareth and Louise Barber who own live music venue Esquires and popular cocktail bar Bears & Tales have said “pressure is mounting” on their businesses.

“Although we saw it coming, it still hits hard,” they said.

Esquires did recently receive a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, securing its short term future.

Read: Bedford Esquires and Place Theatre awarded financial lifeline from Cultural Recovery Fund

However, Gareth and Louise say they feel “completely unsupported” at Bears & Tales.

“This year we have seen a shortfall nearing £100K and we are yet to receive a grant for the last month of enforced closure as well as the pittance of the governments ‘£1000 in lieu of Christmas trade'” they said.

Sara Bears & Tales
Live music at Bears & Tales pre-coronavirus [Credit: Neil McCarty]
But it isn’t just about their own businesses, both added they are concerned for bars and similar business across the town.

“We will see closures and redundancies”

“Unless more support comes for wet-led businesses and the hospitality trade that has always thrived, we are going to see mass closures and redundancies in the new year.”

Speaking when Bedford was placed into Tier 2 last month, Liz Sutton who runs the Wellington Arms said: “Backstreet boozers are about to ring last orders forever across the country.”

Ronnie Toms, who runs the Devonshire Arms with his wife Rebecca echoed Liz’s comment.

“All the money we’ve ploughed into the business to follow Government guidelines has gone to waste,” he said.

“The Government now has to support us or they’re going to see pubs like us closing across the country.”

Read: Pubs and bars in Bedford hit back at Tier 2 restrictions

The Wellington Arms
The Wellington Arms

Christmas bubbles under fire

The Government’s decision not to cancel so-called ‘Christmas bubbles’ has also been criticised.

“The plan of letting people mix indoors over Christmas is another kick in the teeth for the [hospitality] sector and is only going to prolong the closure of businesses as we see an inevitable increase in January through February,” added Gareth and Louise.

“Unfortunately, if you elect clowns you get a circus,” they said.

Bedford and Kempston MP, Mohammad Yasin (Labour) also said he was concerned for the hospitality sector.

“It’s another blow to the hospitality industry and I will be pushing the Government to come up with a proper support package for all affected businesses,” he said.

“I urge everyone to really think through their Christmas plans and be careful not to expose our loved ones and ourselves to this dreadful virus when infection rates are so high and a vaccine is on its way.”

The Bedford Independent has contacted Richard Fuller MP (Conservative) for comment.

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