AS the leisure industry awaits the news from the Government on when they can re-open, business owners are still concerned for safety.

The Railway Hotel in Clifftown Road, Southend, is one of those businesses. Here, manager James Vessey-Miller outlines his stance on the Covid-19 situation.

In a live music pub like ours, it would be especially difficult to operate under social distancing guidelines. We are regularly at maximum capacity of some 300 customers every weekend, and even in a pub of our (quite large) size it would be hard to get in a commercially realistic number of customers in safely two metres apart.

Even in a scenario where we could accommodate a full pub safely spaced, the loss in footfall would have a dramatic - and potentially terminal - impact on the tight sales margins pubs like ours already operate under.

This is before we even mention the fact that people would likely ignore the social distancing rules after a few drinks, and we can’t have our bar staff policing every potentially infected customer for adherence to the rules.

We’re in the lucky position to have one of the biggest town-centre pubs, and if forced to, we could probably accommodate a small number of equally-spaced people in our main bar.

Southend Standard:

The same cannot be said for our much-smaller neighbouring bars, which would struggle with social distancing measures to fit in a meaningfully profitable number of customers at any one time.

We’re concerned that if the Government allows pubs to re-open, the major chain pubs could easily accommodate retrofitting their venues with temporary glass shields and booths - smaller independent pubs haven’t got the cash to be able to do that, especially in older pubs with original fittings like ours which is nearly 150 years old.

Additionally, we’re concerned that if the Government allows pubs to reopen in mid-July while simultaneously revoking financial support to encourage re-opening, we could be witnessing the wholesale death of the pub industry.

No independent family-run pub will be able to weather such a hit in their sales without further financial aid, and this will have a significantly detrimental impact on breweries and the entire professions and industries that are ancillary to the pub trade.

What’s worse however, is the suggestion that the Government could encourage the re-opening of pubs and live music venues without social distancing measures made mandatory.

As a person whose immediate family all work for the NHS, I am gravely concerned that there will be such a premature push to reopen society, that the inevitable wave of this virus could be exponentially worse.

We are under no less threat of this situation worsening than we were several weeks ago.

That’s why we have no immediate plans to re-open before we deem it completely safe. We’re not looking to profit during this crisis, and everything we’re doing at the moment is to solely enable us to pay our bills and ensure that we can reopen when it is safe for us to do so.