For three and a half months, during the first peak of the pandemic, the UK government ordered the country’s pubs, bars and restaurants closed. For many, including the Southampton Arms, an independent boozer in north London, it wasn’t clear they’d ever be able to open again.
Pete Holt, the owner for the past decade, said furlough payments to staff from the government were a “godsend.”
But ultimately, it was the landlord’s decision to waive rent during the lockdown that allowed the business to keep going.
“That saved us from complete destruction,” Holt said.
Now, the Southampton Arms is in trouble again. Starting on Thursday, new restrictions aimed at controlling a second wave of coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom will take effect, including mandatory table service at pubs in England and a 10pm closing time. Pubs in Scotland and Wales also face a curfew.
Those may not sound like major changes. But for struggling pubs, it could be the final nail in the coffin.
Industry groups say shorter service and increased costs put thousands of jobs at risk, while threatening an institution that is at the heart of British life.