For anybody who shared prime minister Boris Johnson’s hopes for a large return to normality from the Covid-19 pandemic by Christmas, a significant setback was dealt this week as the government announced new restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people.
The limit of six people from up to six households will be effective from Monday, and applicable to adults and children indoors and outdoors, in homes, gardens, parks and venues such as pubs and restaurants. The current “two household” rule, which allows for up to 30 people from two different homes to meet up, will be axed.
The move will have ramifications for the hospitality sector since bookings will now be restricted to groups of six. One business that is in line to be affected its Becketts Southsea, a hotel and restaurant in Portsmouth which has enjoyed a significant uptake in bookings since being able to reopen its doors back in August once Covid-compliant.
However, general manager Terence Carvalho is optimistic that the venue will cope with the new restrictions despite the setback.
Carvalho told the Leaders Council: “Unfortunately, the new law will mean we cannot use our private dining room for which we were accepting bookings of up to ten guests from two different households. But outside of that, I feel we will not be as badly affected as other venues in Portsmouth, since we have been very strict with the previous guidelines of six people per group from a maximum of two households in all other areas of the restaurant.
“However, many other hospitality venues seem to have been flouting the guidelines and accepting large bookings. Now they will be hit by these new regulations.”
As we enter the latter part of the year and the run-up to the festive season, The Telegraph has reported this week that Christmas may ‘bring little cheer’ and family gatherings could be put on hold by the government, and with the possibility of more restrictions coming into force, Carvalho is cautious of further blows being delivered to the sector in the coming months.
“I do think that these restrictions will have an impact down the line, especially with the Christmas season approaching and possible further restrictions over winter.”
Yet, Carvalho was keen to remain optimistic about Becketts Southsea’s prospects over the coming months, and paid tribute to his staff for a capital effort in managing the summer boom since the business emerged from lockdown.
He said: “The strength that the business and staff have shown since coming back from lockdown has been phenomenal. We have been having our regular customers visit multiple times in the week, and we have certainly put ourselves on the Portsmouth map.
“I am hugely optimistic that we will continue to thrive despite the restrictions thanks to the dedication of our staff and the loyalty of our unbelievable customers.”
Responding to the announcement of the new ‘rule of six’, chief executive of the UKHospitality trade body, Kate Nicholls, said this week: “The prime minister’s statement represents a further shift towards hospitality businesses to act to protect public health. This is a challenge that the sector has already grasped and will redouble efforts to achieve, in the interest of customers and staff, and to minimise the risk of further lockdowns.
“This will, of course, be more easily achieved with the cooperation of customers, so the measures to make clear the responsibility of individuals was equally welcome. Any fines charged against hospitality venues for breaching Covid-secure requirements must be proportionate and pertain to factors wholly under the control of the venue.
“Mr Johnson said that a later announcement will be made regarding a review of other types of gatherings, such as business conferences, and we strongly urge that any such announcement also includes the road-map for a return to trade for nightclubs, for which we have long been asking.”