THERE has been a lot of relief that Warrington will move into 'tier 2' when the second lockdown lifts.

But for a lot of Warrington's pubs – like the Cheshire Cheese – it is the same old story.

The Latchford pub in Knutsford Road has been closed since Boris Johnson introduced the three-tier system for coronavirus restrictions on October 14.

This is because the Cheshire Cheese does not serve food and only pubs that offer a substantial meal with alcohol are allowed to remain open under tier 2 rules

Taking into account the first lockdown as well, this means by the end of 2020 the building will have been closed to the public for almost half a year.

"It's awful, your very existence is at risk," said landlord Alex Wright.

"Thankfully my brewery have been very supportive and the government grant has obviously helped me survive. However, the future is very uncertain.

"After Christmas we'll be going into two or three months where pubs are usually very quiet and custom only picks up once you get to Easter time.

"This particular pub has its loyal customers throughout the year, but the summer months are where this pub makes its money.

"Usually, the takings during the summer see you through the difficult winter months. Obviously that won't happen this year. So that is a real worry for me."

In the six weeks leading up to the second lockdown, Alex said his takings were roughly 25 per cent compared to the same time last year.

The 46-year-old also thinks 'common sense hasn't been applied' by the government.

For example, in 'tier 2' events of up to 1,000 people can take place with social distancing and kids can be around each other in soft play centres but you cannot have a pint with a friend in a pub that does not serve food.

Alex added: "The decision to put Warrington in 'tier 2' is right decision but it's the rules within tier 2 that are incredibly unfair on the hospitality industry, particularly those pubs, bars and social clubs that don't serve food.

"I'm sure the government have relevant experts giving them all the necessary science, facts and figures on how Covid-19 spreads from one person to another.

"But can someone explain the difference between a group of people from the same household/bubble sitting and having drinks together and the same group of people sitting and having a meal together? I'm dumbfounded.

"Since September when schools, colleges and universities reopened there was a huge rise in the cases of Covid-19. Yet, the measures following this increase seemed to be aimed at the hospitality sector.

"I watch the pupils pile out of the school at 3pm and immediately remove their masks, huddle in groups and show no regard for social distancing rules and nobody is policing this."

The Cheshire Cheese had a coronavirus scare in mid September that Alex quickly responded to.

Drinkers were asked to leave the pub following concerns that a customer had been in contact with someone that had recently tested positive for the virus and should have been self isolating.

Warrington Guardian:

Cheshire Cheese earlier in the year when sections were being divided up for social distancing and the rule of six

Alex said: "I feel as a landlord I went above and beyond ensuring that the rules were followed and my customers were safe.

"I followed the guidelines, closed the pub, used the track and track system to inform other customers and only reopened when the pub had been deep-cleaned.

"I think as a whole, pub landlords and bar owners have complied with rules and regulations and now it appears we're being punished.

"The government grant to support businesses was a blessing, particularly in the summer, but the grants don't cover what these businesses could be earning and most of us still have debts from the summer."

Even if the Cheshire Cheese was a food pub, Alex still thinks he would struggle because in 'tier 2' households cannot mix – arguably defying the point of a British pub where people come to gather and socialise.

He added: "My pub is very much a 'local' and my regular customers use the pub as a meeting place, a place to relax and socialise. It's very much a community pub and the locals have suffered as a result.

"As for the future of my business, I could spend a fortune and attempt to turn my pub into one that serves food. But what's the point when rules and regulations seem to change like the wind?

"All I can do right now is hope that 'tier 2' becomes 'tier 1' in Warrington as soon as possible so that the pub is trading for the Christmas period.

"If this doesn't happen it will again have a huge effect on my income. Hopefully the vaccine will be available and things could return to some sort of normality next year.

"There's always a light at the end of the tunnel but it seems a long way off and survival is the priority right now."

Meanwhile, the government’s plans to allow households to mix over Christmas make a 'mockery' out of pub restrictions, The British Beer and Pub Association has said.

It was announced up to three households can mix at home during the festive period as the government announced a five-day loosening of coronavirus restrictions.

According to the latest Government guidance, Christmas bubbles will still not be able to mix in pubs or restaurants where rules will still depend on which tier each venue is in.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the trade association representing brewers and pubs, said: “These plans for Christmas make a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas.

“How can it be that pubs cannot properly open while households can mix in private settings? The Government data has consistently shown that house-to-house transmission is one of the highest, whereas hospitality has accounted for as little as 2 per cent of Covid incidences when open.

“Pubs are a controlled, safe and regulated environment to socialise in – following all government guidelines and working with NHS Track and Trace. They are part of the solution for a safe and enjoyable Christmas, not the problem.”

Ms McClarkin warned that Christmas was 'the most important time of the year' for the pub sector and 'thousands will not survive the winter' without more financial support from the Government.

Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs, called for a 'new, dedicated financial support package' to support the industry through the next set of restrictions.

She also described as 'inconsistent' the decision to allow household mixing in people's homes over Christmas but not in pubs.