Canterbury nightlife takes 'costly' hit from new Government Covid-19 restrictions

Image courtesy of: Marianne Martin

Pubs across Canterbury are reeling from Government restrictions placed on the hospitality industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The restrictions, which include being banned from operating after 10pm and six months of closures during lockdown, have lead to economic instability and increasingly precarious financial situations for many of Canterbury’s historic night-time destinations.

Charles Smythe, the overseer of several flagship Canterbury pubs, said: “The closures have been costly because I have still had to pay rent despite not having any income.”

Reopening did not come without its own costs either, as Steve Allen, owner of The Pound, spent thousands of pounds to have custom protective screens made and installed.

Canterbury’s pubs rely heavily on tourism and students for their business. The local population sits at around 172,000, 20,000 of whom are students.

In 2017 the city saw a record 65 million tourists visit. Takeaway orders from restaurants and pubs were earning them about 10% of their usual income, and the reduced numbers only compounded that.

The recently started 10pm curfew on pub opening times has also drawn criticism, with the Independent breaking the news that the government made no estimate of the sales that the hospitality sector would lose as a result of the law.

Paul Scully, the business minister, reportedly stated “no assessment has been made, but we will be working with the sector to understand the impact over the coming weeks”.

As JD Wetherspoons confirmed their receipt of a loan worth £48.3 million from the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, there were calls on social media for that money to be redirected to small pubs who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic.

A Kent Online article published 12 March touched upon the fears faced by customers even before the nationwide lockdown.

The WHO’s Dr David Nabarro had already indicated at this point that indoor spaces where people were confined to closer than two metres’ distance were the second-most contagious areas after their own homes.

Government schemes such as Eat Out to Help Out have aimed at instilling confidence in people in the UK to dine out after lockdown restrictions eased, but the fear of the second wave looms over the nation.

Some students returning to the University of Kent have expressed a desire to wait until a vaccine before re-entering pubs.