Gary Forrest raises concerns over local lockdown

High Street Group chairman warns of devastating effect lack of clarity of North East lockdown restrictions could have on region’s hospitality sector



High Street Group Chairman Gary Forrest believes the lack of clarity surrounding the new lockdown restrictions for the North East could have a devastating effect in the region’s hospitality sector.


The High Street Group operates 20 bars, restaurants and hotels across the North East including venues in Newcastle, Sunderland, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.  The group also has two venues in Tees Valley.


Gary said: “If you follow the letter of what Matt Hancock said in his statement and not mix with those outside your household it will have a devastating effect on the hospitality industry.  There is a distinct lack of clarity. How difficult is it to give some clarity and communicate whether you can socialise with friends and family at a table service-only restaurant?


“The country needs a long-term strategy. At the moment everything is reactive and just short terms measures, and this is a perfect example of that. We have a lot of hospitality venues across the North East and we received notification of this two days ago and all our staff, management team and everyone connected to the business has been working really long hours with sleepless nights to work out how we keep the business moving forward and ride this storm.


“This sort of action, without due consideration and discussion with operators, it just beggar’s belief.  I am no scientist, but what I do know is that we have been operating table service and social distancing across all our restaurants and bars since we reopened. We’ve managed, even with those in place, to create an ambience for friends and family to socialise together safely.


“In all that time we are yet to have a visit from anybody inspecting whether we are doing things in the correct manner. One of the options that could have been done as a test base is having a lot more random inspections and those that fail are shut down and those of us that are passing the tests, and working incredibly hard to implement all the measures the government has asked us to do and are enforcing them, can stay open.  That would have had a bigger effect earlier in the process and could have helped control any outbreak.”




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