PUBS, restaurants and cafes in Oxford are fearing for their future today as the city’s new Tier 2 restrictions come into force on Halloween.

The Government announced on Thursday that the city would be placed under ‘High Alert’ from today in the current local coronavirus restrictions system for England.

While the effects on individuals’ lives are relatively minor, businesses in Oxford’s hospitality sector are already worried about the impact that new restrictions on mixing between households might have on people making restaurant bookings or visiting pubs with their friends.

Also read: What happens when Oxford moves to Tier 2?

Clinton Pugh, owner of Kazbar, Café Tarifa and Coco’s on the Cowley Road, said: “You can imagine running a restaurant normally is difficult, but with these restrictions it is extremely difficult.

“If we were going into the spring, I wouldn’t be so worried, but it is the winter – I am sure everyone in a catering business is exactly the same way. We are all very fearful about what might happen.”

The restaurateur added he would have preferred to see restrictions which had a more definite timescale, similar to the new lockdowns in Wales, France and Germany.

Mr Pugh said: “This is just a slow and painful death. I would prefer a short, sharp lockdown than this.”

Oxford Mail:

Clinton Pugh, right. Picture: Ed Nix

The Fir Tree pub on Iffley Road is due to reopen its doors this Tuesday for the first time since March, after landlord Joe Hill said he had been unable to reopen after the national lockdown ended because of difficulties with making the pub Covid-secure.

Mr Hill said his plan was to ‘make a go of it’ despite the newly announced restrictions.

ALSO READ: These are the pubs still closed in Oxford

He said: “Feedback from friends, customers and regulars has been that they are willing to support the business – but Tier 2 is going to affect business quite badly I would imagine.

“I think the lure of our pub is to meet up with friends, especially as it has a nice atmosphere and regular faces. It is a bit like Cheers: everybody knows your name, but I will be honest I think it is going to have quite a negative knock-on affect.”

Mr Hill added that he had received help from the Government’s grant scheme for self-employed businesspeople and help from his brewery Greene King, but the picture for the future was still uncertain.

Oxford Mail:

The Fir Tree, Iffley Road.

David Richardson of the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA) said the new restrictions would likely discourage people from going out in Oxford.

He added: “It is not really for me to comment on why the whole county has not gone into Tier 2, but if friends want to meet in the pub, they can currently just go to Kidlington, Abingdon or even Botley which is outside of Oxford city. It is all a bit illogical really."

The county’s different council leaders of all political parties had this week called for the whole of Oxfordshire to be placed under Tier 2 restrictions with the view of preventing some of the movement between the city and surround rural areas.

Susan Brown, the leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The decision to put Oxford alone into Tier 2 is shocking, when the spread and case numbers outside the city are also of grave concern, and when so many people commute into our city.”

Oxford Mail:

City council leader Susan Brown at the coronavirus Rose Hill Response Hub in April. Picture: Ed Nix.

The new rules in force include that all indoor gatherings between different households are not allowed, including in homes as well as restaurants and cafes.

Oxford residents are also expected to observe the 'rule of six' at all times, and a 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses remains in place.

County leaders hoped that by moving into Tier 2 before coronavirus cases creep up higher, Oxfordshire could avoid going into Tier 3 restrictions.

Read again: The move into Tier 2 restrictions as it was announced

After the tier system was introduced by Government on October 12, the chancellor amended the financial support available for businesses to give them more help if they were in Tier 2 restrictions.

But there is also help available locally from the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

OxLEP’s help includes tailor-made business support plans to help those which are facing hardship at the moment with long term planning, and its peer networks, which help business owners get together to discuss shared problems.

Oxfordshire’s four Tory MPs had lobbied against the whole county going into Tier 2 because of the damage it would do to the local economy, but OxLEP had backed the move.

Coronavirus case number are rising across rural areas of Oxfordshire, but remain relatively stable within the city.