Businesses react as relaxation of Covid restrictions delayed to July 19

Fig Tree Grill

The Fig Tree Grill in Potters Bar. - Credit: Nick Louca

Businesses in Hatfield and Potters Bar have reacted to the Government’s decision to delay the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions until July 19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the long-awaited 'Freedom Day' would be postponed in a bid to control the spread of the Delta variant of Covid.

The news means that restaurants, cafés, cinemas, theatres and pubs will have to continue operating at a limited capacity for another four weeks, much to the frustration of Hasan Yonucu, the owner of Erols Café in Hatfield town centre. 

“The restrictions being moved is very frustrating for us,” he told the Welwyn Hatfield Times this week.

Erols Cafe

Erols Cafe in Hatfield. - Credit: Erols Cafe

“If the Government feels that it needs to happen because of the danger then we have to accept that, but it really impacts how we can operate as a business. 

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“I think the restrictions not easing will make people more scared to come in and dine, because they are now more aware that the danger is still there with the pandemic."

Hasan added: “Things are just really not great the moment.” 

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Despite the delay, the 30-person cap on weddings has been lifted by the Government, with numbers now set by venues based on social distancing requirements, but there are still restrictions such as tables with a maximum six people, table service only and a ban on dancing indoors.

This is good news for the Fig Tree Grill in Potters Bar, as owner Nick Louca explained: “It has impacted me because I’m still limited by large parties not being able to take place as I do a lot of catering packages.

"But I’m really pleased about the rules on wedding changing as that will be a massive help for me.  

“I started the business at the beginning of lockdown and things have been alright, so I can’t really complain.” 

Nick admitted that the number of diners has been lower than expected since the end of the third lockdown, but he has continued to received plenty of delivery orders.

He added: “There haven’t been as many people in as we expected, but I think food deliveries have become part of the new normal.  

“People have been ordering food for the last 18 months and they are probably thinking about just doing the same. It’s just a change to the industry and we have to adapt to it.”

Matt Elvidge, company director of Farr Brew, the local micro-brewery and six-strong pub group, which includes The Eight Bells in Old Hatfield, agrees that while extending the current restrictions might be the right decision for health and safety, there are huge financial challenges for small businesses, and the government should support them more.

He said: “From a commercial perspective, it makes life challenging for us as we had planned ahead for a summer without social distancing, but I believe the decision is the right one an ethical level.

"The last thing we need is a third wave; the country and businesses have suffered enough and if delaying helps to ensure everyone is vaccinated, then I support that decision.

“What the government could really do to help hospitality businesses is to reduce VAT on alcohol like they have done on food until the pandemic is over.

"As we have been closed for such a long time, we are still playing catch-up on our VAT bills and furlough bills for our PAYE staff like so many other businesses, so help with VAT would be hugely helpful."

Matt added: “Furlough was fantastic for our staff and ensured they could feed themselves but it has left companies with huge PAYE bills that are now due and are putting hospitality companies in massive debt.”

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