4 July is the earliest some hospitality businesses could reopen

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

New regime: PM Boris Johnson has set out a three-phased plan to return the UK to normality
New regime: PM Boris Johnson has set out a three-phased plan to return the UK to normality

Related tags: Coronavirus

Some parts of the hospitality sector could reopen as early as 1 July, in the third phase of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to lift the UK out of the coronavirus lockdown.

Phase one of the plan will begin this week on Wednesday (13 May) and will see the British public allowed to take unlimited outdoor exercise.

The second phase, planned to occur from 1 June, will see some shops open and primary school children go back to school.

Phase three is said to see some hospitality businesses and public spaces reopen from 4 July. At the time, Johnson did not specify which parts of hospitality would be able to reopen first. However, since, several ministers have said pubs would be included, yet there is little clarity on what that will look like and there is fear in the trade that pubs will once again be left in a state of limbo.

But hospitality businesses would only be allowed to reopen if it was safe for them to do so and if they could demonstrate that social distancing could be enforced, Johnson said in the Government’s daily press briefing on Sunday (10 May).

The Government, Johnson said, would be prepared to reinstate strict measures should the infection rate increase above the R1 rate – meaning one infected person is passing on the coronavirus to just one other person.

Glimmer of hope?

Although the announcement presents a glimmer of hope for the trade, it raises additional concerns  surrounding how a pub can make enough money to survive operating under social distancing measures.

Commenting on The Morning Advertiser​’s Facebook page, pub general manager Chris Brannigan said: “Enforced social distancing in most pubs and bars with a vertical drinking focus will be impossible without a lot of security personnel and I can’t imagine many can afford that.

“I imagine it would be impossible to keep everyone two metres apart in all those busy, busy bars in London that are long and thin.”

Others also questioned the viability of operating a successful pub under social distancing, with several operators commenting on Facebook that it would not make sense to open pubs until normality could resume.

Of Johnson’s announcement, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said it was a “glimmer of hope” for the sector.

She said: “With insufficient clarity as to when pubs will reopen, our sector remains in limbo and facing severe uncertainty and financial devastation. If Government plans to keep pubs closed until the final phase of release, as rumoured, this would make pubs first in and last out of lockdown.”

Financial support

She continued: “Despite this, the Government hasn’t outlined any specific additional financial support for pubs to assure and help them through the extended lockdown hardship they face. We understand pubs should only open when safe to do so, but extending the lockdown without offering additional support will be devastating.”

Many operators in a recent weekly poll carried out HIM/MCA Insight, a division of The Morning Advertiser​’s parent company William Reed, fear what social distancing rules will mean for their businesses once the trade is allowed to reopen.

A significant proportion said they would not be able to make a profit if sales dropped below 10% of those seen in pre-coronavirus times.

One operator, who is a tenant of a national pubco, said: “If enforced social distancing was to occur, I cannot see how we could operate profitably.

“Furthermore, our landlords are yet to offer any rent reduction and, should shutdown be more than two months, we will be in considerable debt before we reopen.”

See the full results of the survey here.

The UK Government has also dropped England’s ‘Stay At Home’ message, stating that people should remain in their homes in favour of a new ‘Stay Alert’ message.

Related topics: Health & safety

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