Manchester’s wet-led pubs are “completely shot” under tier 3 and “many will not reopen again,” the city’s Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord has warned.

Speaking at MCA’s The Conversation, Lord cited the wet-led sub-sector as his “greatest concern” and said that given that the city has been operating under at least tier 2 restrictions in all but name for the past three months, large-scale closures and redundancies are now “inevitable.”

“The losses are dramatic,” he said. “I can’t sugar-coat it. I think we’re going to see huge redundancies and mass closures.”

Sharing the opinion of many in the sector that the closure of monitored and covid-secure hospitality environments like pubs would do more harm than good – potentially increasing the rate of transmission by forcing the public to mix inside homes – Lord recently launched a Judicial Review into the legality of implementing emergency restrictions on the Greater Manchester’s hospitality sector without scientific evidence.

Explaining the rationale behind this legal action, he pointed to recent Public Health England statistics stating that last week (w/c 19 October) just 2.7% of all new coronavirus cases were related to hospitality, suggesting a clear disconnect between government policy and the truth of transmission.

Whilst this is a frustration felt by operators up and down the country, Lord said that given the disproportionately higher restrictions facing Northern cities compared to those in the South, the government’s tiering system is serving to perpetuate a “huge shift in the North-South divide.”

Having titled the judicial review ‘An Attack on the Northern Class Culture’, he argued that the enforced application of tier 3 on the city’s poorest communities essentially comprises a class-based issue.

“Tier 3 makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to my life because I can go into the local village, eat in a restaurant and drink,” he said. “But the community pubs in some of Manchester’s poorest deprived areas are now shut.

“So, I am allowed to socialise, but the people that live in those areas have now got no way of socialising. It does feel like a huge North-South divide, and I worry for those areas.”

Echoing Lord’s concern for wet-led businesses, British Beer and Pub Association CEO Emma McClarkin added that it is now “really difficult” to see how many community pubs, especially those forced to close in tier 3, are going to survive the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

“It is very sad that they seem to always be the Cinderella that’s left behind and forgotten about,” she said. “They didn’t benefit from the eat out to help out scheme and they didn’t benefit from the VAT reduction.

“So, we have to find a way and we have to achieve some flexibility in working with local authorities to ensure that these businesses can continue.”

McClarkin revealed that in the current climate, 90% of pub businesses are unable to make a profit, and given the “hundreds of millions” of pounds the sector has spent on making spaces covid-secure in the past few months, she added that the never-ending stream of restrictions “feels like a slap in the face.”

“It gets really tough for businesses to keep morale up and to keep going ahead when, in the face of everything, they adapted their businesses, they changed their outdoor spaces and they invested in lots of security,” she said. “And then it doesn’t seem to ever give them the break that they need to really rebuild.

“This is about businesses trying to stay afloat, trying to stay viable, trying to survive through this bleakest of winters, and we have to support their flexibility to adapt in order to be able to keep their businesses going and keep them viable.”