1-metre social distancing ‘more viable’ for trade’s future

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Step back: is there a balance for social distancing lengths in pubs?
Step back: is there a balance for social distancing lengths in pubs?

Related tags: Coronavirus

Most operators believe their businesses will stand a better chance of success post-lockdown operating under one-metre social distancing instead of the Government’s current recommendation of two metres.

According to a poll of hospitality industry bosses carried out by HIM and MCA on behalf of The Morning Advertiser​, of the 302 pub responses received, 39% said it would be more viable to operate with one-metre social distancing rules in place.

A further 37% of respondents said it would ‘maybe’ be more viable, while 21% said no and 4% said they didn’t know.

However, many of the comments about the question showed that most operators believe any form of social distancing would prove difficult or impossible for their businesses.

“My premises are too small to allow social distancing. I cannot open until we are back to normal,” said one multiple operator.

It’s an oxymoron

One single-site licensee said: “Social distancing in a small, 250-year-old, village pub is an oxymoron, people come to our pub to socialise with each other, half open may be worse than fully closed for some pubs.”

Would it be more viable to operate your business with 1-metre distancing in place?

  • Don’t know – 4%
  • Maybe – 37%
  • No – 21%
  • Yes – 39%

Although many businesses are considering the implications of social distancing front of house, others have pointed out the implications for kitchen staff. “There is a lot of talk on how we social distance front-of-house operations, but what about the kitchens of food-led country pubs usually in very old traditional kitchens?” asked one operator.

Another said: “Unable to reopen as unable to socially distance in our small kitchen and how do you serve drinks two metres apart?”

Others, meanwhile, called for clarity on what social distancing – no matter the size – would be put into practice. “Clear and practical guidelines for businesses like pubs where space is a premium and the two-metre rule would not be possible and would make the business not viable,” said a respondent to the survey.

Prove troublesome

Such a lack of guidance could also prove troublesome in the future as this operator says: “It’s very difficult to make plans, not knowing when we will be allowed to open nor under what rules.

“We know 4 July is the earliest possible date but, with so many caveats and conditions (as yet unspecified), we remain willing to start the preparation procedures, yet cannot begin to do so.”

Despite the communication problems between Government and the on-trade, one operator has set out plans to run a business under social distancing rules. “We have already completely taped out two-metre distancing in seating and standing areas,” he said.

“We have sanitising stations at entrance and exit doors and seating is spaced as are toilet facilities and wash basins, etc.

“Around the bar, we have temporary Perspex ‘snob’ screening so bar staff can pass drinks under and use contactless machines. We are getting ‘Sorry, strictly no cash’ signs and will probably keep with this into the future. All our staff are receiving 100% pay and we will honour that, at least until October with or without handouts.”

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Related topics: UnitedWeStand, Health & safety

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