Opinion

The final countdown

By Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester

- Last updated on GMT

Two-week countdown: 'with so much still unknown, all we can do is sit tight and get ready for the day we've been waiting for,' Sacha Lord says
Two-week countdown: 'with so much still unknown, all we can do is sit tight and get ready for the day we've been waiting for,' Sacha Lord says

Related tags: Bar, Public house, Restaurant, Manchester

We are now just over two weeks away from the 4 July - a date etched in our minds as when we might finally be able to reopen our doors to the public.

At the start of the week, we heard of plans to review the 2m social distancing rule, and we wait - five days later - with bated breath to hear how this will affect our reopening.

This week, I held a very important webinar with experts from across our industry, including Michael Kill of the Night Time Industries Association and Greater Manchester Police, regarding potential measures and how operators can best prepare now despite the lack of guidance coming from Government. 

About 150 operators from across Greater Manchester tuned in, and we were proud to be able to help answer their concerns which ranged from the difficulties of accessing financial aid to whether events, and even Christmas, should be booked or planned for.  

There are still so many questions unanswered, and with only 15 days to go, I personally find it embarrassing that we are unable to give our hard working sector no clear guidance on how or even who will be able to reopen.​ 

Reopening checklist

However, to ensure we are ready for when that news comes, I encourage all operators to begin finalising their reopening procedures.  

Over the next two weeks, it will be critical to review operational requirements, including staffing measures, opening hours, booking and cancellation policies and restocking, so that we can reopen with confidence in the knowledge that our customers and our staff will be safe. 

Preparing and developing risk assessment will be a major part of this. There are many companies offering risk assessment and compliance support, and I have personally tweeted some free guidance​ about how operators can prepare. Essential checking points should include:

  • How you will be keeping staff safe, both front and back of house
  • Customers – giving consideration to all areas they have access to, including disability requirements
  • Suppliers – including how deliveries are taken, door staff protection and the possible personal protective equipment (PPE) needed, and how maintenance work will be performed
  • Accident and incident procedures including how you will handle drunkenness and violence while maintaining safety for all involved

Dry runs at venues

As we also approach new limits on furlough, operators must also begin thinking about staffing. 

Preparing rotas now, based on best and worst scenarios, will help management determine which staff can begin to come off furlough and map out staggered breaks and working shifts where needed.  

Dry runs should also be taking place over the next 15 days to ensure staff understand and feel comfortable with the new protocols and so that they can field customers enquiries confidently. 

While there are some theories that customers won't flock back once the sector reopens, promoting your policies and safety measures will go some way to encouraging trust and tempting them back to normality.  

Operators should now be talking openly about the measures they are and will be implementing. I've seen some post social media videos of walk-throughs so customers will know what to expect when entering, while others are promoting posters and updating websites and social platforms with their policies and risk assessment details to reassure their customers. 

I'd also encourage these notices to be clearly visible from the outside of the premises to tempt in passers by. Front of house staff should also know the measures in detail and be able to explain them to new customers who may, rightly so, be feeling a little apprehensive of returning back to their favourite bar. 

Hopeful for guidance  

The next 15 days will be testing but the light can now be seen at the end of the tunnel. 

I hope we will see the Government guidelines published within the next few days with few surprises and greater clarification on which pubs and bars will be given the green light. 

My gut tells me we may potentially see the 4 July date pushed back for some, something that was echoed on my industry webinar, but with so much still unknown all we can do is sit tight and get ready for the day we've been waiting for. 

Related topics: UnitedWeStand

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