Village pubs only half a mile apart split by 'perplexing’ tier system

Jimmy Nsubuga
The Crown Inn, in Kent, cannot open to customers (Google Maps)
The Crown Inn, in Kent, cannot open to customers (Google Maps)

The owners of two village pubs which sit half a mile apart have been left confused by the new tier system that means only one of them is allowed to serve customers indoors.

The Crown Inn, in Kent, has been placed in the highest third tier while Junction, in East Sussex, is in the second tier.

The new restrictions will begin on Wednesday when the national lockdown ends in England.

The pubs are located 0.4 miles apart in Groombridge which borders the two counties.

The Crown landlord Steve Harmes said only being able to serve takeaways would leave him unable to take advantage of the crucial Christmas period and he would not be able to make up the loss.

The “frustrated” owner told the BBC: "We were not in such a bad position before, but now, being put in this position, it's really hard for us to move forward."

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work

Junction landlord Tiffany Pearson-Gills, who opened her newly renovated pub on 5 November, is pleased she can serve customers but admitted the new rules were “perplexing” for villagers because both establishments were so close to each other.

She added: “It's great for us, but it doesn't make sense that the Crown up the road cannot [open].

“It's just so close, it's a really, really difficult one.”

Some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the UK will see Kent plunged into Tier 3 amid concerns over rising hospital admissions.

Two Kent boroughs – Swale and Thanet – have the two highest rates of Covid-19 infection in England, according to data analysis from the PA news agency.

All counties bordering Kent have been placed into Tier 2, meaning their pubs and restaurants will reopen after lockdown.

East Sussex has an infection rate of 136, which is higher than two Kent boroughs which share a border with it - Ashford and Tunbridge Wells.

In total five Kent districts have a lower infection rate than the 250.5 in neighbouring Bexley, which as part of London falls under Tier 2.

GRAVESEND - NOVEMBER 27: Quiet streets as residents and businesses prepare to move into a tier three lockdown on November 27, 2020 in Gravesend, United Kingdom. The UK Government announced a new tier system for England once the second coronavirus lockdown comes to an end on Wednesday 2nd December. Much of the country will be placed into Tier 2 which means the "rule of six" applies and pubs and bars can only operate as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules. The Isle of Wight and Cornwall will be placed in tier one being the lowest risk areas and much of the North and North East of England in tier three which has the strictest restrictions. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Kent is being put in Tier 3 (Getty)

Kent MPs fear residents will go to restaurants and pubs in nearby London and Sussex that are in looser coronavirus restrictions and are allowed to open with an 11pm curfew.

Sir Roger Gale - who represents COVID hotspot North Thanet which is one of the areas that has dragged the county into Tier 3 - believes residents will “skip over the boundary" into areas with softer restrictions to enjoy a pint or a meal.

Read more:

The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained
What tier are you in? Full list of lockdown areas

He and other Kent Tories had favoured a district-by-district approach to enforcing the measure.

Boris Johnson said he understood the “frustration” people who had been placed in higher tiers despite not having a high infection rate in their area felt.

The added the new rules were meant to add “simplicity and clarity” and the government did not want to cause confusion by dividing up the country into “complicated sub-divisions”.

Watch: What is long COVID?

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