'Excitement tempered with trepidation' - how are publicans preparing for a July restart?

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cautious approach: pub operators have said they are excited to be busy again but want to ensure safety
Cautious approach: pub operators have said they are excited to be busy again but want to ensure safety

Related tags: Coronavirus

Though excitement is building for the reopening of pubs, a number of operators have told The Morning Advertiser (MA) they are either reluctant or unable to open on the earmarked 4 July date even if allowed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the next stage of easing the coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday 23 June when he will tell the House of Commons when pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen. The Government has previously said 4 July would be the earliest date this could happen.

It is thought Johnson may also announce that pubs will only have to enforce a one-metre social distancing rule, a move the sector has been pushing for to ensure its survival.

While several operators have said they intend to open later in the week commencing Monday 6 July, some have said they would not be able to reopen until later in the summer given financial pressures, even if 4 July date was given the green light.

Bryn Jones, the Oxford Arms, Kidlington, Oxfordshire

"It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be reopening on the 4 July due to the fact we may lose more money than we have at the moment. A quick survey at the weekend revealed that 80% of our ‘eat out at home’ customers said they would not come into the pub until it’s completely safe to do so. 

"[Reducing social distancing] would make very little difference as we are a very little dining pub. It would mean 30% capacity and more staff to check on social distancing and to police the queue.

"We feel nervous about reopening because it’s not safe. Our business insurance does not cover Covid-19 and what would we do if one of us or a member of staff catches the virus from the customers?

"We haven’t changed our pub for reopening. We will continue with our ‘eat out at home’ takeaway meals at the weekends. Our customers and The Oxford Arms are very happy to continue until things return something to normality."

Brendan Padfield, the Unruly Pig, Woodbridge, Suffolk 

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"The inability to partially furlough until 1 July is problematic so we need some time to get ready so we will be reopening on Wednesday 8 July. But for those who can’t wait we will also be restarting our takeaway and deliveries service from 3 July.

"[Reducing social distancing to one-metre] is the difference between survival and closure. It’s game changing and job saving. Two-metres is existential.

"I feel exuberant, excited and relieved but tempered with a significant amount of trepidation. Is it all going to work and, more to the point will public confidence be such that we actually make any money?

"We have created snugs - panelled enclosures with a glass top quarter being glass. They should make the customer feel safe and they are certainly really cosy. 

"A wonderfully kind and generous customer has also bought a brand new, huge marquee and loaned it to us for free. This will enable less confident diners to safely eat outside with the knowledge they won’t get wet with rain, knowing the British summer.). 

"I was both overwhelmed and very emotional at this act of extraordinary generosity. It’s these acts of kindness that we will all remember in the years to come."

Edward Anderson, the Swan, the Railway and the Vine pubs in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 


"We hope to open our two pub gardens on a weekday evening soon after the date [allowed]. We are keeping our pub which has no garden closed. This all depends on whether the Government clears up the insurance issues going forwards, we can’t open uninsured. 

"We’re not comfortable with having guests sat inside yet so the distance makes very little difference to us. We’re certainly not rushing to build screens between people. We won’t be viable with one-metre or two-metre so it doesn’t really matter. 

"We are excited to be active again and looking forward to trying our best. We are very nervous about finances. Rents are set on busy pubs and will not be affordable until they are busy again, irrespective of the social distancing decision. 

"We have provided more rain shelter in our gardens and are going to serve out of windows. Our toilets have been adapted for single person use."

Karen Errington, the Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland 


"We aren’t planning to open on Saturday 4 July. We would prefer to open on a potentially quieter day and build up to the weekend, taking things cautiously and making sure that all of our systems are in place and working efficiently to protect both staff and customers. We are looking at 8 or 9 July depending on Boris Johnson’s announcement.

"Reducing social distancing to one-metre would still involve losing some of our tables as we are a very cosy pub, but it does mean that we can operate much nearer to capacity (assuming the demand is there) It would give us a fair chance of generating enough income to pay our costs which remain the same regardless of the number of customers. 

"We are feeling excited and positive about reopening-looking forward to welcoming all of our regulars back and cooking again. Just seeing the pub come back to life before summer is over will be great.

"We have made major changes to our gardens, landscaping and clearing trees and creating an additional 60 covers outside as we believe this is where people will be safest and most comfortable, so this is where we will start."

Clement Ogbonnaya, Prince of Peckham, London 

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"We are planning on opening 23rd July for a few reasons. I wanted to give ourselves a buffer in the event of 4th July not happening. Opening later avoids the rush and I get to learn from other establishments how best to open and operate post lockdown. Ultimately, we are also making improvements to our pub such as increasing our courtyard and number of function rooms in preparation for life after lockdown.

"Social distancing of any kind is a problem for a business like ours. Vertical drinking plays a massive part in our culture, also the dining aspect and function room hires will surely be impacted. I’d rather not have social distancing, but if its necessary then we will abide. We can also wipe around 40% off our revenue.

"I’m more nervous now about reopening than I was about opening. Society has changed. People’s behaviours and social habits have changed. There is still a large number of people who can't or who are afraid to leave their homes or be in public spaces. On the other hand, there are still a number of people that will be gagging for a pint at their local. This is going to be a very interesting 3-6 months for all businesses."



Related topics: Other operators

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