Boss of Thornton pub, the New Inn, fears new stricter rules put staff MORE at risk

A BRADFORD pub boss, whose plight was raised in Parliament, has told how the extra measures to combat coronavirus are actually putting people more at risk.

John Rossiter and Lauren Pickup have run the New Inn pub at Thornton for the last nine years. Mr Rossiter has raised his concerns with his local MP Naz Shah, who spoke about how businesses in the area needed more support in Parliament earlier this week.

Mr Rossiter has hit out at the tough new measures introduced by the Government at the end of last month, which means bars, pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and that businesses selling food and drink must only provide a table service.

The rules also mean that staff and customers at indoor hospitality venues, such as pubs, should all wear face masks, expect when seated at a table to eat or drink.

Mr Rossiter told the Telegraph and Argus that he was frustrated at how the supposedly stricter rules, actually saw his staff being put more in harm’s way.

The pair added: “Our turnover is massively down. Our pub’s appeal has changed. People don’t enjoy it as much as they used to and so fewer people are coming in.” They said the feedback from customers was that they feel uncomfortable coming into the pub now, with one saying it feels “more like a laboratory than a social space”.

They called for a “serious rethink” on the current measures both in terms of health and safety and because people are spending less money in the local economy- something that was pushing their business almost to the brink.

Mr Rossiter also added that the latest tier 2 rules, which mean households cannot mix in indoor venues such as pubs and cafes, was a “further blow” to the industry.

He admitted that since Wednesday they had already seen a further negative impact on the numbers of customers through their doors.

Of the table service only rule, Mr Rossiter said: “The concerning impact is that myself and my staff are expected to be face to face with customers who are seated and therefore do not have a mask on. It is placing staff at risk.

“Table service is affectively endangering staff as it takes them away from the mitigating measures of screens combined with the distance the depth of the bar adds, and places them face to face with customers who have no face covering, thus any aerosol omitted is spraying directly onto myself or my staff.

“Service at the table should be revisited and consideration given to returning service to the bar servery where mitigating measures have already been implemented with screens and thus keeping staff and customers safe.”

Of the 10pm curfew he added: “This has been extremely problematic. Customers are asked to leave the premises and commonly wait until the last moments before doing so when the door is physically locked behind them.

“It is further concerning as soon as they leave the premises they remove their masks and are in close proximity to others. This is placing a heavily congested crowd of people leaving the premises at the same time without any mitigating measures.

“The 10pm closures are endangering both staff and customers. It is an insensitive and uncomfortable action to herd customers out when our instructions result in a shoulder-to-shoulder mass exit and when outside the building there are no mitigating measures in effect to keep them safe. This law must be revisited.”

He described how for fear of being fined £10,000 – a sum the business can ill afford in these difficult times – they had brought in a alarm which goes off shortly before 10pm, signalling to customers that they must leave immediately. Many leave half drunk pints behind, he admitted.

He welcomed the more stringent rules on face coverings, and also praised the QR code system, which he said was “working really well”.

On Wednesday Ms Shah spoke in Parliament about a number of businesses in Thornton and Clayton, calling for more support from the Government. The Labour MP for Bradford West said her constituency needs more support as it grapples with soaring unemployment and the highest rate of rising child poverty in the region.

She told the House: “The Government need to listen to businesses more and seriously rethink this, as they are currently at risk from a health and safety perspective as well as facing the economic risk.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus | News