‘It’s just been blow after blow’

Robyn Black

Robyn Black

20 October 2020

Liverpool licensee Conor Foley talks to Imbibe about how tier 3 Covid restrictions are affecting his two venues in the city

Dockleaf is a cocktail bar and kitchen in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle district and The Dispensary is a wet-led pub in the city centre. Both are run by Conor Foley but at the moment, due to the tier 3 Covid restrictions affecting Liverpool, only one is open.

‘As we serve food at the Dockleaf we have managed to stay open,’ Foley explains. ‘But we’ve had to shut The Dispensary which is a 170-year-old pub and a wet led business. That’s despite having invested all the money we had in adding a pub garden for when we were allowed to re-open in the summer.’

By coming to an arrangement with the owner of some adjoining land, Foley managed to increase his outside seating capacity from 20 to 60. He also joined forces with a street food business to serve pasta and cheese toasties from a van but when the government announced that Liverpool was to move to tier 3 regulations it all had to close.

‘We did what we could but The Dispensary is still a wet-led business and it’s not financially viable if we can only sell a pint with food,’ he said.

Staff have been redeployed with most of the bartenders undergoing training to now work in the kitchen at sister venue Dockleaf, which has stayed open being more of a bar and restaurant. In this way Foley has managed to keep all 15 of his staff across two site employed to date – but who knows how long he can keep it up, especially as the blows keep coming.

‘Having managed to stay open at Dockleaf we had an alert from Track and Trace that means several of the team have to now self-isolate. All the rotas I’ve done for the next week or so have gone out of the window.’

Foley is applying for government financial assistance but criticises the forms, which he says are lengthy, complicated and difficult to navigate, and the level of help available.

‘In Wales for a two week lockdown, affected businesses are eligible for up to £5,000 compensation for the two week period. Under tier 3 restrictions in England we are only eligible for £667,’ he told Imbibe.

‘We need one of two things from the government. Either a full endorsement of hospitality as a safe space for socialising where social distancing is monitored and track and trace is in place, or a total shut down with financial compensation. These are the only two viable options.’

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