CAFÉ owners and restaurateurs have said they are set to struggle under strict new lockdown laws.

Hospitality venues in County Durham and Tyneside must now shut their doors at 10pm as health chiefs battle to reduce rising rate of coronavirus within communities.

It is a further blow for the sector, which was handed a lifeline by the Government with the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme

The financial support saw customers returning to venues closed in March as part of the national Covid-19 lockdown.

But new guidance issued by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday advises against socialising with other people outside of their own households in all public venues, meaning people are unable to meet friends for lunch or a coffee.

Stephen Aldred, who owns The Stables on The Horse Market in Barnard Castle, said: “Businesses cannot live like this and more and more are going to go down the pan. I do not know whether to sign a new lease.

“This winter will be hospitality’s biggest test beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

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Faye Miller outside Spudfellas in Bishop Auckland 

Spudfellas café in Bondgate, Bishop Auckland, closed for five weeks during lockdown and reopened as a takeaway before normal service resumed.

Owner Faye Miller said: “We were fully booked at the beginning of the week for the weekend, but we have had most of them cancelled.

“We might end up pre-emptively reverting back to takeaway and deliveries.

“It is not good. We spend a lot of money on stock and if it is not getting used it is a bit of a nightmare.”

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Clarendon's in Barnard Castle  

Clare Vixon, who owns Clarendon’s tea room in Market Place, Barnard Castle, said she was concerned but hoped the local lockdown measures would be temporary.

She said: “Obviously it is having a detrimental effect on the business, although we are supporting the Government in the action they are taking because all they are trying to do is contain it.

“It depends on how long it goes on.

“It is a double-edged sword unfortunately.

“A lot of businesses are really going to see a downturn in customers and revenue.”

Chris McCourt, who works at The Cellar Door, said the early closing meant the restaurant would miss out on serving around eight tables of customers on Friday and Saturday evenings.

He said: “It is quite substantial. What we are doing at the moment is adapting to the changes and working out what works and what doesn’t.”

The 10pm curfew is expected to adversely affect Indian restaurants where many customers tend to prefer to visit later in the evening after they have been in pubs

Mohammed Milon, manager at Amaani in Durham, said: “Sometimes people like to go for a drink first and they like to come in later so we are worried about the effect this could have on our business.”