'Trade dropped by 75%' - Every rule your favourite pub has faced this year

Owner, Josh Green & his mum Sophie Green inside one of the outdoor dining pods at The Barn Restauran

The Barn restaurant in Terrington St John installed outdoor pods in June. - Credit: Ian Burt

Few have escaped the grips of the pandemic.

Some have endured the agony of losing a loved one, recovered from a health battle or fallen on uncertain financial times. The cost of coronavirus is enormous.

Among the hardest-hit industries is hospitality, which has faced lengthy closures, tight restrictions and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

Here, as we pass one year since we were first plunged into lockdown, we look back at what our pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars have weathered since March 2020.

Norfolks MPs have praised Boris Johnsons dynamism and resolve as they shared messages of support fol

Prime minister Boris Johnson initially advised people to stay away from pubs and restaurants. - Credit: PA

Stay away, but don't close - March 16

As the country's death toll hit 55, prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to avoid busy places - including pubs and restaurants.

To owners' frustration, though, he didn't order anyone to shut, with a closure order still a few days away.

With support yet to be introduced, Phil Cutter, of the Murderers pub in Norwich, said it left landlords and restaurateurs walking the "impossible" line of needing to attract business while being responsible in the crisis.

landlord with pint of beer

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers, before Covid. - Credit: Archant

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"It was the worst part," he said. "Overnight we saw our trade drop by more than 75pc.

"For that week we didn't know what we were going to do."

Time to shut the doors - March 20

Four days later, as pressure mounted, the prime minister announced the closure of restaurants and pubs.

It was unprecedented, and a bleak moment for the industry - but the measures that came with it were also a relief.

Mr Cutter said as the death rate worsened, and evidence showed the disease spread most quickly indoors, being taken out of limbo and given instruction was, in part, welcome.

But with the country in the dark, the length of closure was unknown and led to warnings that some businesses would inevitably not survive.

One of the very few stalls that are open at Norwich Market, which fully opens with restrictions on

Norwich market fell quiet as lockdown measures were introduced. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Lockdown 1.0 - March 23

On March 23, people around the country gathered around televisions and phones to watch as Mr Johnson announced the country would be entering lockdown.

There was still no time frame, with the measures said to be "under constant review" and assessed every three weeks.

The overnight shutdown left restaurants and pubs in the dark, with worried owners grasping at plans for an incredibly uncertain future, as they figured out how to cover essential costs and pay wages.

For many, this was the beginning of lengthy spells of furlough.

Chain restaurants also prepared for closure, and queues formed outside McDonald's branches in Norfolk as the fast food giant closed.

Owner Carl Forder at Pottergate Pantry. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Carl Forder at Pottergate Pantry was among those who quickly adapted to a delivery service. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Quick-thinking and new ideas - April 1

By April, the innovation that would come to define the hospitality industry over the rest of the year was already beginning on display.

For many it barely covered costs, but restaurants launched takeaways, chefs donated meals to the embattled NHS, farm shops began deliveries, butchers struggled to cope with overwhelming demand as consumers avoided supermarkets and fine dining restaurants, such as Benedicts in Norwich, pivoted to at home meals.

It led to a rise in so-called 'virtual brands', with owners exploring new avenues via takeaways that don't require a physical home.

By early April, hundreds of businesses had entirely reworked their operations as fed-up diners stuck at home clamoured for restaurant-quality food on their sofa.

The drive-through street food festival at The Silver Fox in Taverham. The team from the Willows Cafe

A drive-through street food festival which took place in Taverham. - Credit: Archant

Al fresco dining - May 30

Glorious weather and a desire for normality saw the popularity of al fresco dining and street food events boom.

The Street Food Fair launched in Norfolk on May 30, travelling around the county and taking good food to its most rural locations.

With evidence clear that the spread of coronavirus was less of a risk outside, it is a trend which has continued and is likely to stay with us for some time.

Well organised queues as Longwater Mcdonalds at Costessey opens the drive throughs after lockdown re

Queues at Longwater McDonald's in Costessey when it reopened. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Big Mac comes back - June 4

Now, this shouldn't really be a milestone, but queues were seen across Norfolk on June 4 when McDonald's reopened its branches for takeaways. The return of the Big Mac was obviously a hit.

Clarity at last - June 23

Three months after the country was plunged into lockdown, Mr Johnson gave hospitality businesses the news they had been waiting for - they could reopen from July 4.

It would be the start of the 'new normal' - table service was a must indoors, staff had to take customers' details, hand sanitiser should be within easy reach and social distancing was key. 

Owners spent the next few days working out revised ordering systems, one-way routes and staffing arrangements.

Some focused on outdoor dining, installing pods and domes for customers.

Customers enjoying a drink at the re-opened Adam & Eve as lockdown restrictions are eased for pubs a

Customers enjoying a drink at the Adam and Eve pub in Norwich when restrictions were first eased on July 4. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Customers Brendan and Patzi Westcott enjoying a drink at the re-opened Adam & Eve as lockdown restri

Customers enjoying a drink at the Adam and Eve pub in Norwich when restrictions were first eased on July 4. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The new normal - July 4

Normality didn't arrive with a big bang on July 4 - the day was more of a cautious, but welcome, first step.

Families took the opportunity to enjoy their first drink out in months, as restaurants got to grips with their new reality and beer gardens in particular proved popular.

Many owners said they were full - albeit at a now lower capacity - and said it was a successful, but strange, weekend.

Simon Wainwright, from the SW1 Gorleston restaurant, said at the time that he felt as though they were "guinea pigs", and that seeing tables without cutlery and condiments and staff with visors had been an unusual experience.

The last day of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme in Norwich sees queues outside some places Byline: So

The last day of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in Norwich. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Eating out to help out - August 1

August brought Eat Out to Help Out, the government's 50pc off, shot in the arm scheme to boost the ailing hospitality industry.

Combined with the summer weather and demand for more staycations, restaurants in tourist areas were overrun with demand, and in Norwich there were queues outside restaurants.

The scheme was hailed a success in business terms, but its timing was criticised - many said it would have been more useful in quieter months - and it has since been blamed for being partially behind an increase in cases in autumn.

Prince of Wales road at 10pm after curfew. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Prince of Wales road at 10pm after curfew. Picture: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Archant

10pm curfew arrives - September 22

In September, we saw the first signs of cases creeping back up. In response, the prime minister announced a plan which quickly proved unpopular: The since-scrapped 10pm curfew.

By early October, businesses were already reporting losses of hundreds of pounds every night, having to curtail service by 90 minutes to ensure they met the deadline.

It sparked a national campaign questioning the evidence behind it, and the rush of people leaving venues at the same time led to criticism that it actually presented more of a risk than normal.

Mike Lorenz, owner of the Whalebone pub in Norwich, said it encouraged some people to drink more than they usually would before the deadline, and added: "The 10pm was too early because at the end of the day people found it quite different, having to drink up and be gone."

He said the subsequent tweak to the rule, which changed it to last orders at 10pm and closure by 11pm, had helped, with the "drinking up" period proving key.

Time for Tiers - October 12

The tiers system was first introduced in October, with Norfolk entering the lowest level of restrictions. Rules were still in place, including the curfew and rule of six.

The 2021 Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled - the second successive year it will not take place d

The 2021 Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled - the second successive year it will not take place due to the coronavirus crisis. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Norfolk Show cancelled - October 28

While it had been obvious the 2020 Royal Norfolk Show would not be able to go ahead, there had been high hopes the 2021 event could return.

But in October, organisers of the event, which celebrates Norfolk's agriculture and food and drink sectors among others, said the task of delivering such a large event with so little certainty was too challenging.

King's Lynn town centre in lockdown. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn town centre in lockdown. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Lockdown 2.0 - November 5

Lockdown returned in November, announced by Mr Johnson as cases continued to rise. This time, though, it was shorter, due to continue only until December 2

Doors at pubs and restaurants were once again shut, as focus turned back to takeaways and deliveries. The shorter timeframe meant more businesses opted to close fully and wait it out.

Man showing he is full after eating Scotch egg

Andy Rogers at the Jolly Sailors with the 'Botched egg' dish launched last year. - Credit: ANDY ROGERS

Is a Scotch egg substantial? December 2

Norfolk and Waveney emerged from the lockdown in Tier 2, with the newly-altered 11pm curfew and the rule of six in place. One-way systems, track and trace and PPE for staff were also still a necessity.

Two notable additions, though, were a ban on mixing households indoors and the substantial meal rule.

Quickly controversial, and ridiculed, debate erupted over what exactly a substantial meal was - and the classic Scotch egg became the centre point of the debate.

As drinks-led pubs said they would be devastated by the rule, others introduced cheap menus and bar snacks to qualify and stay open.

The ban on indoor mixing also saw staff forced to become makeshift police officers, assessing whether customers trying to book inside were actually from the same household and challenging them if not.

People get out for the first Saturday night since lockdown.
Amaryllis Macy and Elliott Greenleaf

Outdoor events became a necessity in Tier 2. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Outdoor events boom - December 10

As we neared Christmas, and Tier 2 continued, demand for al fresco dining grew.

Friends and families from different households wrapped up and brought hot water bottles to spend time together outside, and outdoor food festivals including Mysabar, Junkyard Market, which returnd for its second outing, and the Apres Ski Village in Norwich and Street Feast at The Ffolkes in Hillington proved popular.

Restaurants and pubs invested in outdoor heaters to entice people in.

The complications around households not being able to mix saw Ben Handley, at the Duck Inn in Stanhoe, ask people to follow the rules, as staff did their best to enforce them.

Tier 2 proves too challenging - December 15

Despite their best efforts, Tier 2 proved too challenging for many businesses, particularly those with limited outdoor space.

The chill of winter put some off eating outside and tired owners said they would shut up shop and wait out restrictions.

If customers bring in a toilet roll at The Station Smokehouse they will get money off the entire bil

If customers bring in a toilet roll at The Station Smokehouse they will get money off the entire bill. Picture: Tim Ridley - Credit: Archant

Tim Ridley, at the Station Smokehouse in Hoveton, said the rules meant the restaurant, which has a handful of tables outside, was largely attracting smaller bookings, making business unsustainable.

At the same time, national figures revealed there had been 650,000 jobs lost in hospitality since January.

Christmas cut back - December 19

Mr Johnson finally succumbed to the inevitable on December 19 and announced that the plan to relax rules and allow Christmas bubbles would be stripped back.

At the same time, as the Kent variant took hold, Tier 4 was introduced, with a ban on people travelling in and out of affected areas.

It meant Christmas and New Year plans were cancelled for dozens of families, and bookings for restaurants and pubs scrapped.

Another flurry shut.

More bad news - December 26 and January 4

Over the next few weeks, the pandemic hit what was arguably its lowest point. Norfolk and Waveney entered Tier 4 on Boxing Day, restricting those businesses which were open to takeaways and deliveries once more.

And on January 4, the country was plunged into the third national lockdown as pressure piled back onto the NHS.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first lockdown a year ago. - Credit: PA

Roadmap revealed - February 22

After six weeks of lockdown, the prime minister laid out plans for the reopening of the country.

Currently, we remain in the first phase, which has allowed children to go back to school and people to meet up with one other outside.

It has given the industry something to aim for: April 12, when they could be allowed to serve customers outdoors, and May 17, when indoor service could be allowed. June 21, though a long way off, could see all rules on social interactions scrapped.

What happens next?

For now, our restaurants and pubs are relying on takeaways and deliveries, waiting to see whether the April and May easings go ahead.

Bookings are starting to fill up as people look ahead to reuniting with friends and family.

And for those in the industry, separated from their colleagues and plucked from the kitchen for lengthy spells at a time, they will be eager to inch back to normality.

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up Hospo event to support hospitality workers. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

In March, well-known Norfolk chef Jeff Taylor said he was launching Heads Up Hospo in a bid to get hospitality workers together, offer training and support and raise awareness of the strain the industry has faced.

For now, fingers will be crossed that the weather is on our side come April, as a glimmer of hope hovers on the horizon.


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