Landlord frustrated after pub half-a-mile away opens while his shuts under Tier system

27 November 2020, 18:33

By Megan White

A Kent landlord has expressed his frustration after a pub less than half-a-mile away was allowed to reopen while his shuts under the Government's new Tier system.

Steve Harmes, who runs The Crown Inn in Groombridge, will have to remain closed from next Wednesday after the county was placed in Tier 3 - the highest set of lockdown restrictions.

But The Junction Inn, just 0.4 miles away on the other side of the village, will be able to open, as it is technically in neighbouring East Sussex, which is Tier 2.

Read more: New tier system labelled 'unfair' as two thirds of England faces tougher rules

Read more: Robert Jenrick explains to LBC why the whole of Kent was placed into Tier 3

The new regulations, which come into effect on December 2, mean local residents should not cross the bridge which divides the centre of the village, home to around 1,600 people.

Tier 2 means pubs are able to reopen if they serve substantial meals with alcoholic drinks, whereas they must shut under the stricter Tier 3.

Mr Harmes told LBC he was "so frustrated" that the pub would be unable to open its doors and said "losing more trade when we've had a bad year anyway is bad."

He said: "We're right on the border of Kent and East Sussex, so they're allowed to open, because they're in Tier 2, and we've been put in Tier 3.

"To be put in that restriction when we weren't in that Tier before isn't right, it needs to be changed.

"We're losing the Christmas trade, we've got everything ready to be open, we're just so frustrated that now we can't open and losing more trade when we've had a bad year anyway is bad."

Mr Harmes said he hopes the business can survive another lockdown, adding: "We're obviously going to do the best we can, same as everybody that's in this situation.

"So we're working hard to sort of find any gap or loop that's going to be able to give us a chance to get through until when we can open again."

Asked what he would like to say to the Government about his situation, Mr Harmes said: "I think they've got it wrong and it's unfair.

"I know you want to try and reduce it from all areas but we're nowhere near the rate of infections that other places have and they're in Tier 2, so it's not fair on all the people who are in a good area to be penalised for it."

61 per cent of the country's population will be living under tougher Tiers than they were pre-lockdown when the new regulations come into effect on December 2.

Many MPs voiced their rage after it emerged that 99 per cent of the country is to be placed in the top two tiers of restrictions from next week.

Roughly 29.5 million people are being moved up one level, while 4.6 million have been bumped up by two.

Just 1.8 million, or 3% of the population, will have their rules relaxed.

Earlier on Friday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick explained why the whole of Kent has been placed into Tier 3, the strictest of the country's coronavirus measures, despite varying rates of Covid-19.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "One of the things we've had to consider is whether or not to break up areas into very small units. We have assessed every part of the country individually but we've also looked at whether it's sensible to have one town in one tier and another town not so far away in another.

"When we've done that in the past we've learnt that very quickly the virus can just spread."

There was bafflement that areas with low infection rates are facing tougher controls - including a ban on social mixing indoors - than before they went into lockdown last month.

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green, MP for Ashford in Kent, said there is "a lot of anger on the Conservative benches."

"I know colleagues in Dorset are very annoyed and our colleagues in Lincolnshire are very annoyed and and quite a lot in other areas where the the incidence is very low."

"People here feel obviously everyone has been behaving properly and observing the guidelines and all of that," he said.

"The reward is we went into the lockdown in Tier 1, we come out in Tier 3, which has just made people think 'Well, what was the point of this lockdown?'"