Manchester’s wet-led pubs and bars have once again been dealt a devastating blow, with Tier 3 restrictions forcing them to close for the foreseeable future.
It’s left thousands of pub landlords and thousands more bartenders without work – though thankfully with some government support while they try to weather the coming months.
But the impact of measures like this cannot be understated, and it spreads far wider than meets the eye.
For every nightclub that closes are hundreds of fashion shops with party dresses that won’t be purchased.
For every country pub is a taxi driver missing their usual closing-time lifts home.
For every cocktail bar that shuts is a catering firm with highball glasses gathering dust.
Below you’ll find just a fraction of a supply chain for one pub in Greater Manchester – real people, with real employees, real bills to pay, and their own set of unique challenges.
The pub landlord – Jed Ford at The Millstone
Anyone who has entered The Millstone – Manchester city centre’s much-loved pub where the karaoke (pre-Covid) runs all day and the disco lights never stop – will have met Jed.
He makes an effort to introduce himself to each and every punter and, even with his mask on, you can see the smile in his eyes.
The pub reopened in mid-August – but two months later, Tier 3 has forced it to close again.
Here’s what Jed had to say.
“It’s been fine since we opened, I’m happy with that, we were getting there.
“People were coming back in and they were so pleased. We do everything by the book, we do it dead right.
“I’d say I’m doing a third of what I normally do.
“I’m normally busy but as you can see, there’s not a lot of people in the pub today. It’s terrible, but people are afraid of the virus.
“My customers are probably mostly 55 upwards so they’re all worried to death.
“The curfew – we have to call last orders at quarter past nine. What’s an hour here or there? But saying that, it’s seven hours every week – it’s a lot of money, trust me.
“I’ve had to cancel all my orders. J.W. Lees have been brilliant, I have no complaints. But it’s things like my crisps and my cleaners I’ve had to cancel all that. It’s horrible.
“I’m not happy with what’s happening. It’s awful.”
The pub bartender – Danielle Houghton at The Millstone
Danielle is pulling her last pints for a while at the Millstone, just weeks after she was able to come back to work.
With kids at home and a clear love for her job – she’s been here for seven years – she’s worried about what the future will bring.
She said: “I’m so sad, and I’m sad for the customers. Especially our older ones, this is the only place they get to go out to now.
“It’s more than a pub, it’s like a family.
“It’s not been good this year. Not good for the family at home, not good for me – I’ve got kids and an elderly nana.
“I’m really stressed and having no work coming up to Christmas.
“We were just getting back on our feet and it happens again. I don’t even know what to say or do about it any more.”
The doorman – Ricky Deveroux
Ricky has worked in the security industry for a decade now, currently with Salford-based PES Security, covering all sorts of events and venues across the region.
As is common in his field, he’s on a zero hours contract – thankfully, he has an alternative full-time job to bolster him for now, but the same can’t be said for his colleagues.
Here’s Ricky’s story.
“I’ve worked in security for 10 years now and I’ve worked at all the big stadiums – Manchester United, Manchester City.
“I’ve done loads of work for pubs and bars too, like last night I did my last shift at the Moor Top pub in Heaton Moor, because that’s having to close with everything that’s going on.
“Fifth Avenue, I worked there for a few years, all the bars on Deansgate Locks, Browns, New York New York and Via in the Gay Village.
“I’ve done so many big events too, Parklife and Creamfields, and Belle Vue dogs, we’ve lost about 12 lads who used to work there now.
“It’s not just security and it’s not just the people who work in pubs, lots and lots of people are all going to lose out.
“In the security sector you don’t get that much support. Your holiday pay and your sick pay, that’s all incorporated into your pay, so when you don’t work you don’t get paid, basically.
“I’ve personally lost out on thousands and thousands of pounds.
“There is other work out there thankfully, through P.E.S there are other jobs. All the supermarkets and stuff, I’ve been working security at Aldi and Tesco.
“Obviously it’s hard for everyone at the minute but it’s out of our control.
“I work as a teacher as well so I’m lucky, I just do the security as a second job now, on the evenings and weekends.
“I used to do it full time, and I could work three different venues in one day.
“I’m not too bad, but lots of my old friends, people I’ve not heard from for years, are messaging me and asking if I have any contacts, they’re desperate.
“It’s a sad situation.”
The brewery – William Lees-Jones at JW Lees
William Lees-Jones is the director at Middleton-based brewery JW Lees – it’s the name above the door at more than 100 pubs across the north of England as well as a familiar sight at the pumps.
65 of those are now closed, with 68 per cent of the operator’s premises within the Tier 3 lockdown area.
This is the point that the supply chain blows wide open – William says that JW Lees has 435 suppliers, from security firms to local authorities to window cleaners to grocers to butchers to other drinks brands.
He’s sceptical of how effective lockdowns like this are, and the way hospitality is being ‘demonised’.
William said: “I think that the tier 3 lockdown is something of a deflection, it’s the government not wanting to talk about what its strategy is.
“I don’t believe that lockdown is a very good idea.
“I think we’re seeing the government lose the respect of the people, and that’s a bigger deal, because we’ll start seeing civil unrest.
“We had it announced that we were going into tier 3 on Friday, it’s now Thursday morning and I still, as a businessman who wants to comply with all the legislation, I still don’t know which of our pubs are going to have to close.
“We feel so short-changed.”
“We will try to deploy people from the closed pubs into ones that are open, but we’re expecting everywhere to be much quieter,” William added.
“It’s a question of how long people can put up with this. My experience of going to pubs has been very good, and infection rates from hospitality seems to be consistent at three to five per cent.
“We’ve made pubs and restaurants safe places to be, but the government’s demonising us, which in my mind isn’t very helpful.
“They’re making us kick people out and then you see them all straight to off-licence, because people don’t feel like a 10pm bedtime is something that should be imposed on them by government.
“From a brewery perspective, half of our customers just haven’t reopened.
“We do a lot of business with Manchester Airport and Manchester Arena, so that business is half what it was.
“I do fear the North West will be particularly badly hit, because of all the travel restrictions in place. People are going to really suffer.”
The food photographer – Lucas Smith
Few people know the city centre’s hospitality industry better than Lucas Smith, a freelance photographer who’s worked with countless businesses here.
An actor by trade, Lucas picked up a camera several years ago and has since worked with, to name a few, Revolution bars, Dakota Hotels, Living Ventures, El Gato Negro, Hatch, The Jane Eyre, CBRB and Ducie Street Warehouse.
“At the beginning of the year things were great.
“I was booking jobs in six or eight weeks in advance and I was pretty much fully booked.
“Obviously in March, once venues realised they weren’t going to be open for a very long time, over the space of two days my diary just emptied.
“Thankfully I had a little bit of money saved, but both the industries I worked in just vanished.
“The bars and restaurants had to be very resourceful with their home deliveries and meal kits, whatever they could do to be Covid-safe, so there was a little trickle of work coming in.
“I’ve been okay, thankfully, I’m very lucky, but that’s all changing again and I’ve cancellations now we’re going into the tier system. It’s a very worrying time.
“I’m lucky though, it’s just me, I’ve not got anyone relying on me to pay them.
“I did qualify for some government help which meant I could pay my mortgage and eat.
“Other freelancers – DJs and photographers and sign writers and painters and performers – they can’t work, and their back-up jobs are typically in other parts of hospitality too.
“There are so many other industries who have been forgotten.”
The alcohol supplier – Wilds of Oldham
Wilds of Oldham first launched back in 1933 – back then, it was a cinema chain, then a group of bingo halls.
Passing down a generation to the 1960s and Wilds launched a pair of well-loved restaurants, the School House restaurants in Middleton and Ashton-under-Lyne.
Now in the hands of the third generation, Andrew Wild has evolved the business into a drinks wholesaler, providing alcohol to hundreds of hospitality venues in the north west.
When I spoke to Andrew, he was in the midst of having some really difficult redundancy meetings with his staff.
Since the Chancellor’s announcement on Thursday, the company’s outlook is much brighter – though Andrew said the news would have been welcomed much sooner.
Here’s what else Andrew had to say.
“My brother retired in April – he timed that bloody well! He’s left me and my wife to sort out this mess, and the mess gets deeper and deeper each passing week.
“Pre-Covid, we had around 500 active accounts in total, we were on track to turn over around £12 million this year, and we employed 39 people plus my wife and I – 41 people in total.
“With the effect of Covid, we are probably going to struggle to get to £7 million.
“At the moment, the current weeks that we’re in now, in Tier 3, we’re running at about 25 per cent of the same time last year.
“The 10 o’clock curfew took a lot of volume off, and then as soon as the tier system was mentioned it was inevitable we’d be in the highest before too long.
“I’ve been a big supporter of everything the government has done, because we simply wouldn’t be here without their support.
“But I think they’ve got this wrong. I feel safer going into my customers’ premises than I do going into Tesco, but now they’re being told to close.
“I don’t think they’ve got it right by having to close pubs and bars.”
“Hospitality has got some [financial] measures, my customers who are now closed have got a monthly grant coming and a promise of paying at least some wages – they’re not rubbing their hands but they have just about enough to mothball their business,” Andrew added.
“During the initial lockdown the government also gave hospitality business rates relief – and also retail even though they had queues around the car parks to get in there.
“Wholesalers and suppliers, we have not had business rates relief or anything. No support, no recognition for our industry.
“We’ve been banging on Rishi’s door since March – it will be a champagne moment if he gives us some support.”
Crockery, cutlery, cleaning, and everything else – Stephensons
Now in its fifth generation, Stockport’s Stephensons provides catering equipment to thousands of businesses across the north west.
Commercial director Julian Lewis-Booth estimates that they have 15,000 active delivery points currently – but that they’re currently at about ten per cent of their normal trading levels.
Julian said: “Back in March, the world stopped for us.
“That very very slowly picked up over the months until July, when basically the entire industry rang us in the space of two days!
“We did more than Christmas in July and August, with Eat Out to Help Out too.
“We’ve been through the Wild West back in spring trying to keep people supplied with gloves and cleaning products and masks, as well as packaging and disposables for people trying to stay operating with delivery.
“Lots of our customers are now on life support, so to speak, they’ve burnt through their reserves and they’ve spent to get Covid-secure before the major reopening in July.
“Then since the curfew and the rule of six, we’ve seen customers’ trade levels just dropping, and then they’re obviously spending less with us.”
“These operators in the vast majority of cases are doing things right and they’re being put at significant risk without the safety nets,” Julian added.
“You shut hospitality and the supply chain behind that grinds to a halt.
“We have 104 employees and it weighs on my shoulders big time to look after them.
“We’re hoping to avoid anything like redundancies. I can safely say it is the worst f***** job in my list of responsibilities, taking someone’s job away from them.
“I absolutely hate it so if I can avoid it, I’ll do everything I can.
“Hospitality is a very significant employer at the younger end of the sector – you’re talking about a significant chunk of youngsters being dumped out of a job.”