Reopening of popular Newbury pub ‘may not be viable’

A Newbury pub may not open while only outdoor service is permitted, the landlord has said.

Many pubs and restaurants across Berkshire and the UK have reopened after the easing of government restrictions means the venues can serve people in outdoor settings.

But Warwick Heskins, who runs The Catherine Wheel, said it may not be viable for his business to open under the current restrictions.

The landlord said he will need extra staff to provide table service and oversee test and trace even though the Newbury pub can only seat up to 20 people outside.

“You’ve got to look at the costs against the likely reduced sales,” he said.

“You’ve got such a small customer base now with the outdoor seating, but the staff costs remain high.”

BerkshireLive email updates: We bring the stories to you

Sign up to the BerkshireLive newsletter.

Signing up to the BerkshireLive newsletter means you’ll receive our daily news email.

It couldn’t be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions.

You can also enter your address at the top of this page in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms.

Changed your mind? There’s an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of every newsletter we send out.

He has still not decided whether it is worth reopening The Catherine Wheel but will open The Spare Wheel in Newbury on Wednesday, April 14.

“Basically, you always have to overstaff. That’s the same for me and every other pub and restaurant that’s opening now,” he said.

Between July and September 2020, when various restrictions were in place, sales at The Catherine Wheel fell by 30 per cent, while wage costs fell by 12 per cent.

Mr Heskins said the pubs “would not have survived without furlough or government grants” and he has been forced to pour £5,000 of alcohol down the drain during the pandemic.

He has also been providing takeaway food during lockdown, using Deliveroo, but said “there’s no money in it” as they “take 35 per cent”.

The government allowed pubs and restaurants to reopen on Monday, April 12, as it continues to ease lockdown restrictions, but all customers must sit outside.

Pubs goers will be allowed to eat and drink indoors from May 17, if the government’s roadmap out of lockdown remains on track.

But Mr Heskins said some landlords are still unclear on the restrictions and are choosing to “stick their heads in the sand”.

He added: “I’ve been somewhere today in Reading, I won’t say where it is, but it was basically indoors.

“It was in a covered marquee with fences all the way round.”

His comments came at a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board on Monday, April 12.

GetReading – Food & Drink Windsor