While the earliest date proposed by the Government for a reopening of hotels, restaurants and pubs is 4 July, there is a lack of clarity about whether this will be the official date hospitality businesses resume trade and what requirements operators will have to follow.
The delay in publishing details has left many inn operators confused, with some worried that they may eventually be told that they can only open up one aspect of their business.
Nick Skerritt, who runs the King William IV inn in Sedgeford, Norfolk, said being able to have occupied rooms is the main factor in reopening his site. He told The Morning Advertiser (MA) that he has decided if he cannot open rooms then he will not open his pub - although the Government has grouped hotels and pubs together in the same 'phase three' of easing lockdown restrictions.
Skerritt said he was not prepared to bring staff off furlough without a firm reopening date, and may have to push back opening to the second week of July because of the Government’s delay.
Skerritt told MA he is prepared to make changes such as removing reading material from the rooms, asking guests if they are comfortable with cleaners making up their beds, and replacing the restaurant’s buffet area with full table service.
“I only have nine [bedrooms] but it's very useful to have those full," he said. "I always say, if my rooms are full I have a good week. I have some bookings for July but I have a good database and expect to get a lot of bookings once there is an announcement.
He added: “I'd prefer one-metre [social distancing] but I will only lose about ten tables internally and since I don't think we will be that busy, I don't see that as an issue. The biggest issue for me is the bedrooms. I think we all know we are going to have to live in the future with social distancing and PPE, I have no issue with that. I would just like some clarity.”
Similarly, operator Christine Hurrell, who runs the Red Lion Inn in Partney, Lincolnshire, said she needed opening guidelines a fortnight ago.
"There certainly hasn't been the guidance you would hope for," she said of rooms being available to customers again.
Hurrell carried out a detailed risk assessment to ensure she could safely offer rooms to key workers, however is apprehensive of the cost pressures moving forward.
She explained: “It's things like, I used to use local jam in large pots and people used to dollop some out onto their plates. That won't be able to happen anymore. We are going to have to buy things like individual pots of jam. They are really expensive. It's all these little things together.
“Then you have the cost of all the cleaning materials - I have been sanitising and steaming armchairs in the bedrooms and even been washing the pillows.”
Steven Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) said: “We have a wide breadth of members, many of who run inns and pubs with rooms. They have adapted their businesses to survive in recent years by providing great food and drink to their local customers, whilst in many cases becoming a destination for travellers, businesses and tourists alike.
“Without clarity on when they can reopen all aspects of their business, they will be left in limbo.
"All of our members urgently need to know what is expected of them now, so that they can prepare for 4 July and bring their pubs out of hibernation. We are continuing to call on Government for the guidelines to be released immediately, to ensure this can happen.”