Business secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that 4 July would be the earliest date for pubs to reopen, after some speculation ministers may allow beer gardens to open up before this.
However, it has not issued an exact date for reopening, nor said when the trade can expect guidelines on reopening safely, which would include details on whether two-metre social distancing is needed.
Trade body BBPA said a date is needed to give pubs the confidence and certainty to prepare for reopening under ‘the new normal’, after being shut down for three months because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Confidence and clarity
A date would mean pubs can make the necessary preparations to get back in business, including releasing staff from furlough, working out which safety investments are needed, and restarting the brewing of draught beer.
It also said the Government should publish its guidance on pubs reopening as a matter of immediacy.
The Government has now given pubs less than three weeks to prepare for a potential opening on 4 July, the timeframe the BBPA has consistently said was necessary for pubs and brewers to be fully prepared.
Although 13 June passed without an announcement about a concrete reopening date, many brewers and publicans have had to take the risk and begin getting ready for 4 July, without any clarity on whether this could be pushed back.
The BBPA warned many pubs are unable to take such gambles about reopening given the financial weight the crisis has had on the sector.
Deadline for notice
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “We have consistently and clearly asked the Government for at least three weeks’ notice to ensure our pubs can bring staff out of furlough, prepare and reconfigure themselves to adhere to safety guidelines, and ensure they have fresh draught beer ready to serve customers.
“The deadline for notice the Government needed to give us to be ready to reopen on 4 July, as referenced in its own roadmap, passed on Saturday. As of today we have no finalised safety guidelines and no definitive date for reopening – we need both today (Monday 15 June) if pubs are to reopen on 4 July.”
Trade body UKHospitality (UKH) also called on ministers to issue urgent clarification on timing.
UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "We need confirmation of the reopening date for hospitality businesses without any further delay. Businesses need time to prepare and the first step in giving them some much-needed clarity is confirmation of when they can open their doors again.
"A review of the two-metre social distancing rule is a positive show of intent for hospitality but with less than three weeks to the proposed reopening date for our sector, a crucial element of certainty is conspicuously absent."
Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, said he has to decide by Wednesday (17 June) morning whether to bring staff back from furlough and invest in new safety protocols to reopen safely in early July.
He said: "Without immediate and definitive confirmation from Government that they will allow pubs to reopen then, I cannot make this decision. This will delay investment, delay bringing our staff back to work to help plan our reopening, increase the costs for Government and inevitably will mean that our pubs will not be able to reopen.”
Kevin Georgel, chief executive of St Austell Brewery, has had a similar experience and said the business had been "forced to take a significant gamble" with beginning to brew draught beer again".
He said: "In order for pubs to be able to serve a pint of fresh draught beer that customers have longed for during lockdown, we had to start brewing last week. If pubs do not now open on 4 July, all of this beer will be lost at huge cost to us during this time of survival. It will join the 70m pints that were wasted when pubs were forced to close in March. The Government cannot allow this to happen again, we need confirmation immediately that pubs can reopen on 4 July.