No one wanted to go into a second lockdown. But are there any silver linings?

Oakman Inns CEO Dermot King volunteered one earlier this week, pointing out that besides perhaps January, November was one of the slow trading months in the calendar year.

And Shepherd Neame CEO Jonathan Neame agrees with the suggestion that this time round, operators are much better prepared for what is to come.

“A lot of lockdown one was second guessing what the guidance would be, how you could operate, the social distancing etc,” he says. “Everything was being invented for the first time.

“I think lockdown two is simpler in that respect, but it’s no less uncertain.”

It’s that uncertainty which hangs in the air, and Neame is not alone in the sector or wider society in being dubious about the prime minister’s insistence lockdown will be time limited to December 2.

He fears by keeping schools and universities open, major sources of transmission, the infection rate will continue to rise, while the “safe” spaces, non-essential retail and hospitality, are being shut down.

“It feels like we’re being scapegoated,” he says.

Scathing about the failure of the government’s failure to implement a viable track and trace system, which the hospitality industry voluntarily supported, Neame rues an opportunity missed to create an Asian-type model.

“The whole point about lockdown one was not just stopping the disease, but about buying time to put contact tracing in place. It is a fundamental failure that it doesn’t work. And we still don’t have testing at the airports.

“The consequence is that policymakers are looking for other environments to blame, and hospitality is on the front line.”

Yet the public do not buy this, Neame says, with one of the more positive effects of lockdown being a reappraisal of the Great British pub.

“I think the great hope here is that the British public have looked over the cliff and seen a world without pubs, and they didn’t like it.

“They want pubs in their communities. They really value what the industry has done to make their environment safe and clean and welcoming.

“I think the industry will survive this. But it is deeply infuriating that we seem to be being scapegoated without evidence, without consultation. It won’t wash. We will not accept that blame, and nor do the British public.”

Though a marginal gain, Neame welcomes the government’s common sense in u-turning on a prohibition on selling beer for takeaway.

Much more than just about selling surplus beer, he sees it as a philosophical principle about the relationship between the public and state.

“The state needs to inspire people with big ideas, and then they will comply,” he says.

“If the state sought to regulate every breath we take, and every nook and cranny of our life, then something has gone fundamentally wrong. And in this case, I think, the state went mad. Thankfully, they reversed it.

“It’s marginal, but if it can provide a little bit of revenue for some licensees that do take-out, then we should applaud it. It gives them a chance to stay connected with their communities and sell products that other otherwise go to waste.”

Despite the devastating challenges, Neame remains optimistic for the future.

Shepherd Neame’s pubs in the tourist towns like Whitstable will no doubt benefit from staycations in the next few summers to come, he says.

“I do genuinely think there will be a moment in this crisis where we will think it’s over, I think there’s going to be an unleashing of joy.

“The raw of a crowd with live sport or the joy of being in a pub with a live band, that’s what we have got to look forward to.

“We need to get to that point, and it will be rough, but it will come.”