A RESTAURANT owner said it may be cheaper to temporarily shut and make staff redundant after swathes of customers called to cancel tables within minutes of the Government announcing tighter lockdown restrictions.

Piers Baker, who owns the Church Street Tavern in Colchester, and the Sun Inn in Dedham, said he hadn’t personally made any money since February - before the country was plunged into a national lockdown.

He said he is keeping both restaurants going to keep his staff employed but is now facing a further setback after Essex was placed in the high Covid alert category.

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“If the Government want to shut us down and restrict us all, then that is fine,” he said.

“But they need to give us financial support and they are not doing that.

“The furlough is at 80 per cent so I have had to find another 20 per cent for furloughed staff until the end of October.

“From then they are going to give them 67 per cent of wages if we are forced to shut.

“We haven’t been told to close yet within minutes of this announcement, the cancellations were coming in.

“75 per cent of bookings for this weekend, for Saturday night, have cancelled.

“That equates to about 65 people.

“The suppliers have been fantastic, the landlords have been fantastic, we are in a slightly better financial position today than we were in back in March at the start of the national lockdown.

“But the reality is it is going to be cheaper to shut and re-open next spring, making 25 members of staff unemployed.

“I have been staying open to provide employment for my staff.

“I haven’t earned any money, personally, since February.”

Mr Baker called on the Government to come up with a long term plan to help the hospitality sector which is “unfairly” facing decimation.

“The virus is spreading in places like schools and universities, not in pubs and restaurants,” he said.

“We need to make £20,000 per week to make a profit and we are taking less than 50 per cent of that right now.

“Under the new measures, it will be even worse.

“If there is another lockdown and we are forced to close, when we are asked to reopen, who’s to say cases won’t rise and this won’t happen again?

“It cannot go on like this, it simply cannot work like this.

“Why has Essex been shut down in this way and not Suffolk?

“If you look at the Government’s figures, you can pinpoint where the recent cases are - 18 in the East Bergholt and Brantham area, only four in the Castle ward of Colchester.

“There is no consistency.”