What To Do When Coronavirus Strikes Your Bar – by Lyndon Higginson

Lyndon Higginson is one of BarLifeUK’s (and probably the industry’s) favourite people. We first met him 10 years ago when he was tending bar and causing chaos at Keko Moku in Manchester. He is still causing chaos but now owns a slew of bars mostly in Manchester including, Liars Club, Crazy Pedro’s, Cane & Grain, Bunny Jackson’s Juke Joint, Junkyard Golf (plus many more). He got in contact today following the announcement about the new guidelines up his way and wanted to speak to the industry. These are his words:

I thought it was about time to put something together to hopefully help everyone out during these crazy times!

We’ve all certainly had more than a few issues across our venues recently. I’m currently sat at home starting my second week of self isolation. More on that later…

Across my sites in Manchester, we’ve just been hit with more new restrictions from the government that are vague at best. This is on top of everything else we’re all struggling to make sense of most of the time. The best way to help everyone out is to tell you what’s been going on at our sites. We’ve had two separate cases of Coronavirus at two different sites!

Now, whilst you’re thinking FUCK!,as we were when this happened, you need to realise this is going to happen all over the place until this pandemic goes away.

I’ll go through what we did, and how we dealt with everything, as when we had our first case we weren’t really prepared and didn’t have much of an idea what to do.

Our first case was at The Bay Horse Tavern and a member of staff fell ill on Sunday 5th July around Midnight. They didn’t have any symptoms whilst they were at work, but obviously they were in work with the virus. As we all know the virus takes anything up to 14 days to show any symptoms. As soon as they could, they went for a test and got the results through late on Tuesday night. As soon as we found this out we closed early that night and started asking questions. What should we do? Do we close? What about our staff? What about the customers? etc etc etc.

We didn’t really get any definitive answers as licensing, EHO and the council all had slightly different answers. We made the decision to tell all members of staff to not come in until they had been tested and we hurriedly put some other staff into the venue and reopened. As days went by, everyone got their results back and thankfully they were all negative. During this time we managed to get more and more clear information which wasn’t available at the time.

When you get your negative test result through, it’s very misleading as it says that you can return to work. This isn’t 100% correct! If you have been close to a person or a ‘contact’ then regardless of your test result you have to self isolate for 14 days since you were last with them.

This is what the government say:

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For example, a contact can be:

  • people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • sexual partners
  • a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19including:
    • being coughed on
    • having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
    • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
    • contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19for more than 15 minutes
  • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.

Medical advice is clear: contacts of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate at home because they are at risk of developing symptoms themselves in the next 14 days and could spread the virus to others before the symptoms begin.

If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 then you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone. If you are notified, please follow the guidance in this document closely.

If you have not been notified that you are a contact, this means you do not need to self-isolate and should follow the general guidance, for example, social distancing, hand-washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

So basically, if someone has coronavirus and you’re too close to them, you sleep with them or they cough or sneeze in your face you’re gonna need to isolate for 2 weeks. Regardless of a negative test result.

It’s also important to know that whilst isolating you can only claim SSP. Not Furlough. Staff can only be furloughed if there is no work available for them because of downturn in trade due to Covid, so if their positions have to be covered by someone else whilst they’re self isolating then they can only be paid SSP which is £95.85 per week or they can take it as holiday.

So, as you can see it’s all a bit of a headache!

It’s important to point out that all of our sites have taken all the restrictions seriously from opening and have everything in place for both staff and customers to ensure everyone is safe.

This has been proven with The Bay Horse as after 14 days of isolation all our staff returned to work Covid free. The member of staff who had the virus made a full recovery and is now back at work with us.

I can’t stress how important it is to wear masks, sanitise, clean yourself, your venue and socially distance all of the time. Before, during and after your shift. Without everything we have in place I feel like more people would have gotten ill. Knowing all of this information made the second case much, much easier to deal with.

Our second case was found out on Thursday last week at Southside, our newest venue. I know right. How annoying!
It’s even more annoying as I’m currently off until next week as I didn’t follow my own advice! We had everything set up in there and when we found out about the case there were only 2 members of staff who had to self isolate. The reason I’m off is because I had a lock in after they had finished. Stupid! If I had left when everyone else did I would have been fine and relatively hangover free!

There’s still of course a chance I’m typing this whilst the virus is making it’s way through my body and getting ready to really fuck me up! Believe me, I’ve been speaking to the person who has it and it sounds horrible! Really high fever, short of breath, aching, no energy etc. All they’re being told to do is to stay hydrated and take paracetamol. That’s so shit!
We all need to work together whilst this virus is still out there.

If you go to a bar or restaurant and they’re not taking this seriously, speak to them, name and shame and tell them why you won’t be going there until they sort their shit out.

We all have a duty of care to each other and our customers.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Across our sites in Manchester there are sites that are up by 30% like for like compared to last year due to extra outside seating. There are of course sites that are down too. We’re running at around 8% down, which is pretty damn good for a city that people think tables are for dancing on!

Saying that, Boris has just pretty much stitched us up again with these local lockdowns in Manchester.
I guess we can only wait and see what happens next…

Please take this seriously and please keep yourselves, your mates and your family safe.