ONE of Swindon’s most popular bars might not survive if the tier system continues into the new year.

Manni Madhani, owner of The Bank in Old Town, has labelled the tier system devastating and warned his industry can’t cope for much.

He spoke as confusion reigned over what pubs can and cannot serve as a 'substantial meal' for customers living in Tier 2.

He said: “There’s a lot of people going out of business because of this.

“These tiers are having a huge impact on our business.

“It’s really putting us to the edge, we don’t know if we’ll survive next year.”

“We’re all in very sad and difficult times but in our industry, every day that goes by we’re feeling more and more left out with any help from the government.”

In Swindon, any pub or bar is allowed to open if they are serving a ‘substantial meal’ – if not, they need to remain closed.

On Monday morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice said a Scotch egg “probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service” – something which is mandatory in pubs under the coronavirus rules.

But on Tuesday morning, cabinet minister Michael Gove told ITV’s Good Morning Britain it was “probably a starter”.

He told LBC “a couple of scotch eggs is a starter, as far as I’m concerned”.

But he later told ITV News: “A Scotch egg is a substantial meal.”

He added: “I myself would definitely scoff a couple of Scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise that it is a substantial meal.”

Mr Madhani wants to see more local decisions being made about what tier Swindon should be in.

He added: “The government are making these rules up, they’re coming out with these tiers, which maybe our town doesn’t need to be so strict.

“They need to take more of a local approach, let the local council say it doesn’t need to be in Tier 2.

“At the moment, if you come and have a drink at my place you need to buy food.

“That’s fine, we have a restaurant and we can extend that upstairs but how does that make a difference?

“If you’re eating food and drinking, you’re still in that environment.

“I don’t think it’s been proved that our industry is causing any issues.

“Schools are still open, people are still mixing, it’s devastating.”

On a normal weekend, Old Town would be packed with drinkers and partygoers, but since the first national lockdown in March the street has remained relatively quiet in the evenings.

“It sounds like it’s going to be another year, and it can’t be,” Mr Madhani said. “There are people in Swindon who support local businesses but who knows how long that can last.

“The loss of the weekend scene is devastating. I still take a drive round, I keep an eye on the building and I see what’s happening.

“I’ve never seen the place so derelict and dead. It’s terrible.

“It’s made the job of the authorities a lot easier because there are less people on the street but their job isn’t going to be impacted by it.

“We are suffering badly. There are lots of regulations and it’s not good for us.”