The group, which is said to include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, is believed to be investigating ways to help pubs reopen as early as 22 June using beer gardens, terraces and marquees according to The Financial Times (FT).
Reports state that Sunak is said to be in favour of reopening pubs and restaurants before 4 July with social distancing rules in place, while housing and local government secretary Robert Jenrick is believed to be reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas.
The other ministers in the six-strong group are said to be cabinet office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, culture secretary Oliver Dowden and business secretary Alok Sharma.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA), pubs, bars and restaurants are due to remain closed until 4 July at the earliest under the Government’s current plans to ease lockdown.
This means that as a best-case scenario, pubs will have been closed for a total of 106 days – just over 15 weeks – by the time they reopen on 4 July, although operators such as Young’s and Revolution Bars Group have said that resuming trade in August is a more realistic prospect.
Channel Islands-based pub operator Liberation Group has already set out plans to open a number of pubs on Guernsey and Jersey on 15 and 16 June respectively before rolling out its strategy across mainland Britain.
Reduced social distancing
While FT’s latest reports claim that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked Sharma to make the case for cutting the UK’s social distancing rule to one metre, they come less than a week after housing minister Simon Clarke stated that the Government intended to maintain two-metre social distancing despite calls from the hospitality sector and senior MPs for its reduction.
Yet, as reported by MA, Johnson had previously told the Liason Committee that he was “optimistic” about pubs reopening earlier than 4 July and mentioned the possibility of reducing the current two metre social distancing rule for the hospitality sector.
“My own hope is as we make progress in getting the virus down, in reducing the incidence, we will able to reduce that distance, which will be particularly valuable on transport and clearly the hospitality sector,” Johnson told the committee.
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