THE lifting of lockdown has allowed retailers across Wiltshire to open their doors for some much-needed trade but many businesses still face huge struggles in the next few weeks, they told the Gazette.

Philip O’Shea, who runs the Peppermill hotel and restaurant in Devizes, said: “The cost of opening up with these restrictions is high, it’s still quite difficult although I was expecting us to fall into Tier 2. We have 17 amazing hotel rooms sitting empty upstairs, and I think it won’t be until Spring that we’ll get use of them.

"We’re booked up this weekend, however one thing that will be difficult for us is policing households. When people come in with others, we have no way of knowing for sure if they live together or not - how do we police that?”

Sarah Bradford-Scoble, landlady of the Brewery Inn in the village of Seend Cleeve, added that the lack of Christmas trade was also going to be hard.

She said: “We’re opening but in reduced hours - Tier 2 feels very hard and December should be a good month for the pub trade. It feels very much more like surviving than celebrating.”

Non-essential shops have been allowed to open under Tier 2 restrictions.

Wiltshire artist Madeleine Rees runs MadWildArt and, while happy to open her gallery’s doors in Devizes, criticised Wiltshire’s Tier 2 setting. She said: “It’s still a difficult time for lots of businesses, especially the pubs. I don’t think we should be in Tier 2, not out here where the cases are so low. We’re the same as London which is just mad, I think most of Wiltshire should really be in Tier 1.”

Andrew Blackall, of Chairman Antiques in Corsham, said: “ Everyone has there fingers crossed for a safe run up to Christmas All we read about in the nationals are the death bells of High Street retail but small local shops are the backbone of retail therapy and brighten up Britain in these challenging times.”

Janet Winter, of The Bay Tree in Devizes, hopes the good news on Wednesday that a vaccine had been approved will boost trade.

She said: “I didn’t sleep well, I was quite nervous. But it’s been really good since we reopened today (December 2) and we’ve been busy, we are so grateful for everyone who has supported us.

“The next few months will be really hard if we don’t have good footfall, we need support to tide us over winter. The news about the vaccine is great and will hopefully mean people feel safer about returning to shops, there is a glimmer of hope now.”

When deciding on the tiers, the Government look at coronavirus cases across all age groups and specifically among the over-60s, who are considered most at risk.

Officials also consider whether infection rates are rising or falling in that area and the positivity rate – meaning the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken.

Pressure on the NHS is also taken into account, including both current and projected occupancy.

More than 55 million people will be placed into Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures on Wednesday, meaning mixing between households indoors will effectively be banned for the vast majority of the country.

Kate Blackburn, director of Public Health for Wiltshire, said earlier this week: “It’s no surprise we were put into Tier 2.

“Even though our cases are starting to reduce, Tier 2 will provide an opportunity to get those cases down further.

“I was asked last week if I thought we were put in the right tier. I absolutely do.

“I absolutely feel Tier 2 is where we need to be in order to keep getting case rates down.”

From yesterday, the county was open again under Tier 2 national restrictions. Hospitality venues are limited to table service, and they can only be serve alcohol with “substantial” meals. The previous 10pm curfew will be eased with last orders at 10pm, followed by an hour to finish any drinks before the pub closes.

People from two different households cannot mix indoors, and outdoor gatherings are limited to six.

Support needed for pubs

THE UK Government’s £1,000 grant towards pubs which do not sell food has been described as a “massive insult.”

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that all ‘wet pubs’ will be given £1,000 to help them out in what would normally have been their busiest time of the year, as fears grow that 90% of venues could close.

Malcolm Shipp, MD of the Stealth Brewing Co, who also runs the Vaults pub in Devizes, said: “That’s a massive insult and will be the death of so many pubs, as this is the month that covers a pub for the following two months.

“Sure we’ve had various grants and taken advantage of furlough and loans but we will be paying for this for a very long time and will need to attract a greater level of trade once we open back up properly than we had precovid.”

Toby Bartholomew, managing director at Wadworth, said: “We’ve continued to support our tied tenants financially through the latest lockdown and going forward as we enter the different tiers.

"We are awaiting the detail of the additional grant from the government. This is desperately needed to protect these community businesses.”