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Newbury pubs fear impact of new coronavirus restrictions

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Landlord: "It feels like we've been kicked and now we're being kicked again"

“IT just feels like we’ve been kicked and then kicked again.”

That was the view of one Newbury pub landlord after the latest coronavirus restrictions were announced by the Government this week.

From today (Thursday), all pubs in England will have to close their doors at 10pm as part of a plan to stop the spread of the virus.

The landlord of Newbury’s Catherine Wheel pub, Warwick Heskins, said: “It is going to have a big impact on us.

“Although in theory it has only knocked an hour off closing time, it’s not last orders at 10pm, it’s everyone out and doors locked by 10pm.

“So realistically I’m going to have to call last orders at 9pm just to make sure everyone has got enough time to finish their drinks.

“We are also going to have to close the kitchen earlier to allow people time to eat and then leave.

“We are currently trading at around 30 per cent of what we were before Covid and then we get this latest announcement.

“It just feels like we’ve been kicked and then kicked again.”

The landlord of The Newbury pub in Bartholomew Street, Pete Lumber, said: “It is something we could have done without. We do a lot of trade between 10pm and midnight.

“We’re probably going to have to call last orders at 9.10pm and time at 9.50pm to allow everyone 10 minutes to finish up and leave.

“It’s disappointing, obviously, because we were just starting to make a bit of momentum and then we are hit with this.

“But at the end of the day we have got to think about people’s safety. It is our responsibility.”

There are also fears that the district’s football clubs could fold after the planned return of spectators to sports venues in England from October 1 was put on hold amid fears over a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Hungerford Town chairman Patrick Chambers said he fears for the future of the club – and non-league football – if fans are banned until March.

The Crusaders, who play in National League South, are due to kick off their campaign at home to Chippenham Town on Tuesday, October 6.

Mr Chambers said: “National League football cannot survive without fans.

“If we play in the FA Cup on October 3, that would be the first game of the players’ contracts and we would then have to pay them until the end of the season.

“But without fans, how are we supposed to do that?

“It costs us £12,000 a month minimum for us to play football at this level – and we have probably the smallest budget in the league – but with no income we can’t do that.

“There would have to be a furlough scheme to pay the players. You can’t expect them to play for nothing – would you work for no money?”

Clubs below Step 2 are allowed up to 600 socially-distanced fans at each game and Mr Chambers is baffled as to why that isn’t extended to National League level.

He said: “We have a members’ bar and we could have 150 people in there watching a live game on TV, but they could not step outside to watch their team on the pitch.

“If the precedent is 600 fans for Step 3 and below, then it should be the same for all clubs.”

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