Confusion over reopening rules as Government silent

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Confused operators: publicans have said they need more clarity from the Government after speculation about reopening rules
Confused operators: publicans have said they need more clarity from the Government after speculation about reopening rules

Related tags Coronavirus

The pub sector has called on the Government to clarify when it will reveal more details about reopening, following media speculation about what they will be permitted to do.

Suggestions about what is in the guidance have featured in industry and national publications for the past few days, after a draft of the guidance document was leaked in its consultation process.

However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) refused to confirm when a final version of this guidance would be published for all operators to view.

A small number of operators have seen the draft of the document already, as it has been going through a consultation process with trade bodies and sector voices. BEIS would not confirm how many individuals or organisations were involved in this process but suggested it could be up to 250.

No clarity 

Articles in the press have suggested the draft does not specify a two-metre requirement for distancing and simply suggests tables are spaced widely apart. The blueprint is also understood to ask pubs to use the same staff members for specific shifts. 

However, BEIS would not confirm any elements of the draft document or state whether any would be likely to change by the time of the guidance’s publication.

Business secretary Alok Sharma confirmed last night (Tuesday 9 June) that it would still be 4 July "at the earliest" before pubs, bars and restaurants could return.​ 

This came after speculation that the Government may permit pubs to open their beer gardens earlier than this to help boost the economy, with some ministers lobbying for a date of 22 June.

The speculation caused the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) to call on the Government to urgently set out a date for reopening​, so  pubs could have enough to prepare.

Clock ticking

The trade body’s chief executive Emma McClarkin has previously said pubs will need at least three weeks advance notice of a reopening date​ in order to organise stock, ready staff teams and ensure health and safety measures can be followed.

The founder of Draft House and the Project Pint campaign Charlie McVeigh​ said: “We need immediate clarification if it's going to be 4 July otherwise it's going to be very hard to reopen well or reopen at all.”

“It’s just absolutely an impossible situation to not know when we will reopen and what basis we are reopening, with regards to distancing.

“Most importantly, licensees have a legal obligation to keep staff and customers safe and they should be encouraged to get on and do that with some blanket guidelines from Government but not a detailed plan. A ‘one size fits all’ plan will almost certainly guarantee the death of part of the industry.”

McVeigh added: "There are lots of challenges, the one that illustrates the challenge most clearly is the cask ale challenge. Brewers have got to gear up and start producing cask ale ahead of the reopening. It's one example; someone's got to go kill the cow to make the steak. All this stuff needs to happen and notice has to be given for it to."

Publicans have also shared sentiments of confusion about the guidance and an opening date on social media. 

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We are working at pace to develop safe ways for pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen at the earliest opportunity it is safe to do so, through our pubs and restaurants taskforce.

“This work is progressing well, bringing together representatives from the industry to develop guidance as we have done for other businesses and sectors.”  

The Morning Advertiser’s​ editor Ed Bedington wrote about the lack of clarity for pubs as it stands, highlighting that for many operators the difference between a one and two metre rule could be the make or break factor​ on whether it is viable to trade this summer.

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