There are fears new Tier 2 restrictions in Swindon could be disastrous for small pubs and bars

Under the new Covid restrictions, which come in on Wednesday, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving a substantial meal with alcohol.

But there has been criticism levelled at the Government over the lack of clarity in the wording about what constitutes a substantial meal of if alcohol can only be sold with the meal.

Jason Putt, who owns The Hop Inn in Old Town believes there’s no reason to force bars to close.

He said: “It’s very harsh given that there’s no real proof that the hospitality industry is any more dangerous than people going into shops or other places.

“The restrictions have been such that people aren’t going out and getting roaring drunk.

"We’ve been shutting early and my colleagues in Devizes Road have been treating social distancing very seriously.

“We’re getting hammered for not particularly valid reasons,” he said.

With the Christmas season traditionally a very busy time for the hospitality industry, there are fears some bars won’t survive.

“It’s disastrous,” Jason said. “We're right on the edge now, right on the edge of survival.

“I guess it’s much the same for a lot of other businesses. We opened up effectively as a new businesses last year and this year was supposed to be a year to reclaim what we’d spent and all it’s done is double our debt load and I can’t see it getting better any time soon.”

Speedway boss Alun Rossiter, who runs the Southbrook Inn, believes the rules are confusing and need clearing up.

He said: “I don’t know what you class as a meal. If you read it as it is it’s not good for us.

“Even though we serve meals, we rely on our local people and a lot of them are drinkers.

“It’s open for abuse, you either police it right or it goes wrong, it’s one of those things, what do you do?

“It’s difficult to say a lot because if you go as it is, you can have a meal and six people in the same family, how long are they meant to stay? Do they have to have the meal and leave? Can they have a couple of drinks?

“For the first time ever, my head’s in a pickle. We started off in Tier 1 and now we’re in Tier 2 and a lot of places are in the same boat.”

Despite the concerns over pubs and bars, the retail industry is allowed to reopen fully.

Ruth Lambert, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, believes Tier 2 businesses will be happy, but assurances need to be made for next year.

She said “These have been trying and difficult times for so many, and with the festive season upon us it’s never been more important to see trading resume once again.

“Many small businesses will be issuing a sigh of relief that they can operate in tier two in what is the busiest month of the year for many.

“These past nine months have been among some of the most difficult that small firms have ever had to endure and that hardship looks set to continue.

She said: “Small firms in all tiers will want reassurance about how long these measures will remain in place, and the longer term measures we can expect to face in the New Year.

“In order to safeguard jobs and livelihoods, the government must set out a roadmap as soon as possible.

“We would urge the public to continue to shop local, shop small and shop small online where possible.

“Small businesses for many are the beating heart of our communities and we must band together to make sure we save small firms and jobs from being lost right across the nation.”