As we begin to stare Monday and the reopening of pubs and licensed premises in the face, the imbalance and general lack of fairness that the Government has applied to managing the Lockdowns is beginning to look even more sinister than it ever did before.
The way that pubs and the licensed trade have been singled out and placed right at the top of the scale of unfairness is quickly becoming a scandal. One that only fails to shock as it should because the whole Government narrative of control through fear is beginning to look completely perverse.
Not satisfied with the social distancing measures that accompanied the reopening of Pubs last summer that made many great locals feel sterile, uncomfortable and out-of-touch, the Government is now intent on ratcheting down the Pub rules even further.
They are piling on the risk of closure for countless pubs and community hubs that had already been at risk well before Covid arrived, due to the way that legislation had pushed hundreds and thousands of pub properties once owned by breweries into the hands of property speculators or ‘pubco’s’. ‘Money men’ obsessed with draining every penny of profit from bub businesses, causing countless bankruptcies and closures along the way.
However, what is about to be imposed in the coming days as part of these supposed Lockdown-loosening measures is enough to make anyone wonder if there is some kind of agenda at work, aimed at destroying what remains of the industry once and for all.
It began with the dubious requirement that has meant every pub business with outside space available and therefore able to open next week must hire marquees for what may become many months ahead. Yet there is no practical, real-world explanation telling anyone why the environment inside a temporary indoor space is safer than one that is in fact permanent.
Then it progressed to all payments having to be taken outside, when a substantial number of the pubs that can open next week don’t have payment systems that can be used or can actually function outside of the premises they are in. Let’s not forget that this news emerged yesterday, some 5 days before reopening, when there simply isn’t time to install new equipment – if it would be possible for it to work. And that’s before consideration is given to the additional cost.
Last there is what some will see as the final nail in the coffin. The requirement for customers to download and use the NHS Track & Trace app to log in at pubs at the time their visit began.
Of all the new measures, the requirement for customers to use the NHS App is the most questionable. Not least of all because the same requirement will not apply in many other settings such as supermarkets and DIY stores where anyone visiting in recent days will tell you that they have become far more crowded and create close-contact of a kind that you are unlikely to see even at 11pm at the local pub.
It is clear that pubs and licensed premises are being singled out. Pubs and restaurants are now being used in a blatant attempt to coerce everyone into signing up to and using an information gathering and monitoring system that in this basic form constitutes abuse. One that when accepted or imposed in other sectors and in other forms could easily become permanent and used for much worse.
So why is the licensed trade being hit so hard when other sectors selling direct to the public seem to be having it so much easier?
Each and every local authority that we pay our Council Tax to has a Licensing Department. District Level Authorities (Borough & Unitary too) double up as your Local Licensing Authority. They all have a team of Licensing Officers and Legal Advisors already providing a localised regulatory service that monitors and enforces Licensing Law not only for pubs and the licensed trade, but for taxis, gambling, sex shops and scrap metal dealers too.
So the apparatus and infrastructure already exists to police pubs and the licensed trade in a way that no other commercial, publicly facing business can be monitored and policed.
The Government knows this. It is deliberately abusing the power that it has available to control people wherever and however it can. We should be grateful that the Government doesn’t currently have access to the same functionality within the public sector to police other businesses and sectors – or on experience to date, you can be sure that it would be doing so.
Good leadership isn’t using the power available to you because you can. Good leadership is using restraint and doing the right thing for everyone when it appears to be the more challenging pathway to take – even when it appears there is a much easier way.
One of the greatest problems that this Country now faces is the diminishing levels of humanity and understanding that exist between people. Historically, we have learned and become adept at understanding others through the interactions that happen face-to-face within our communities.
Greed on the part of the few had already meant that many local pubs where locality and localism could reign were at risk. Now the Government wants to pursue policies that will finish them off so that it can bluff its way to the end of the Covid pandemic and to the next General Election, and somehow convince everyone else that this Conservative Government has been good for us and that it truly deserves to win.
Whilst many will refuse or will find themselves unable to believe it, we are in the position that we are today – 12 months on since the first Lockdown began, facing the things that we are, simply because stupidity in Government has been allowed to rule the day. It has been fuelled by the fear of those leading us and an obsession with saving their own necks – no matter the cost to everyone else.
The Government cannot see the damage that it is doing and how far reaching it will become. Yet we cannot get rid of them before the next general election.
By then, for pubs, the licensed trade and whatever follows next in their dangerous and disproportionate abuse of power – the damage will have already been done.