Trade welcomes reopening date confirmation but Gov support must continue

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Further info needed: pubs have welcomed the clarity on when they can reopen but are still awaiting Government guidelines on how
Further info needed: pubs have welcomed the clarity on when they can reopen but are still awaiting Government guidelines on how

Related tags: Coronavirus

Hospitality trade bodies and pub companies have welcomed the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that pubs can reopen on 4 July but have called for ongoing help from the Government.

While pubs can reopen under one-metre social distancing rather than a two-metre rule, the industry will need continued support as some operators won’t be able to trade with these restrictions.

This comes as the guidance as to how pubs can open safely is expected to be announced imminently.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Having confirmation of the reopening date is a real boon and affords businesses some time to make the necessary preparations.

“We are still awaiting the publication of guidance and we have been working hard to ensure businesses are fully equipped with our own reopening guidelines, but the initial clarity around the date is very helpful.

“The Government has given due recognition to how hard hospitality has been hit by this crisis. Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen. Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secures businesses and jobs.”

She outlined that many customers will be keen to support their local pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, as well as return to leisure and holiday pursuits.

Nicholls added: “While many venues will endeavour to reopen on 4 July, capacities will be constrained by social distancing and some may be unable to trade viably at all, so continued Government support will remain crucial.

“Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills. We need financial help from the Government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again.”

The confirmed date is an important step but the first on a long road to recovery, according to the British Beer & Pub Association

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “It’s great to know our pubs will be able to reopen on 4 July. While the Government hasn’t given us the three weeks minimum we asked for to get our pubs ready for reopening, thankfully as an industry, we had already started our preparations to ensure our pubs were ready to open when we were given the green light.

“It’s great to see the Government adopt the World Health Organisation and the examples of many other countries across the world, which have safely reopened their hospitality sectors using one metre as their safe social distance measure. This will enable many more pubs to begin to get back on their feet and will help save thousands of pubs and jobs.

The trade body estimated the decision will mean up to 28,000 pubs can open and allows them more space to operate, helping the viability of venues.

Safety of staff and customers

McClarkin added: “I also urge Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to adopt the one-metre guidelines to ensure consistency and ease of implementation across all pubs in the UK.

“We also look forward to hearing from each of them as soon as possible on the definitive dates for when pubs can open in each location.

“We now await the publication of Government guidance for our sector. As an industry we will be doing everything we can to ensure both our customers and staff are safe in our pubs.

“We do have significant concerns over the collection and storage of personal customer data when visiting the pub. We welcome the Prime Minister’s pledge to work with the sector to make this manageable as it poses significant logistical challenges. We will work with Government on how we could help collect data for track and trace purposes.”

In light of the Government's announcement, brewer and pub operator St Austell Brewery plans to fully focus on getting its pubs ready to reopen safely as it looks forward to welcoming its teams and customers back.

Chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “The announcement from the Government provides much needed clarity and comes as a huge relief. We also welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement on reducing two-metre social distancing guidelines to ‘one-metre plus’, which will allow us to reopen our pubs more viably on 4 ​July.

“As we approach 4 July, we’ll continue to prepare our managed pubs - in line with the Government’s hospitality guidelines - brief our teams and provide ongoing support for our tenants. We’re already busy brewing a fresh supply of draught beer which we’ll be delivering to our customers, across the West Country and beyond, in the days ahead.

“Things may be a little different for a while but our priorities remain the same - looking out for our teams and guests, while delivering a great experience. Rest assured, we will be introducing a number of extra measures in our pubs to ensure that our customers can socialise safely.

“Even in these unusual times, we can promise our usual warm welcome – delicious food, quality draught beers, comfortable rooms and some of the best views in the West Country. We know for so many, pubs play a key role in bringing communities together. We’re looking forward to doing just that and welcoming people back responsibly next weekend.”

Fellow pub company Greene King called for clear guidance from the Government on how pubs can operate.

Chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “It is great we finally have the news we have all been waiting for – a confirmed opening date for pubs and a change to social distancing from two metres to one.

“It is a welcome relief for pub operators, our team members who want to get back to work and of course, our customers who have been missing their local pub.

“We now urgently need the detailed Government guidelines so we can check we have the correct measures in place to reopen safely for our team members and customers.”

Fantastic news

Consumer organisation the Campaign for Real Ale's (CAMRA) chief executive Tom Stainer outlined how pubs collecting customer details needs to be monitored so operators aren’t unfairly disadvantaged and called for the Government to ensure this data will be protected.

He said: “Getting down to the pub for a pint with friends and family has been one of the things people have missed the most during lockdown, so it is fantastic news that people in England can start returning to their locals from 4 July. 

“Understandably, this comes with a responsibility to do so safely and responsibly in line with the government’s guidance. CAMRA is urging all pub goers to follow the rules so that they can keep themselves, other pub goers, and bar staff safe. 

“On recording customer details to help testing and tracing, this seems to be above and beyond what is being asked of other types of businesses. The Government need to make sure that this doesn’t disadvantage pubs and that the privacy of pubgoers is properly protected. 

“Not being able to go to our local has made us realise just how important pubs are to communities, and in tackling loneliness and social isolation. That is why we need a second wave of financial support to ensure that all pubs – both those operating at reduced trade and those that cannot open safely under social distancing  – can survive the next few weeks and thrive in the weeks and months ahead.”

Pubs code adjudicator Fiona Dickie highlighted how pub-owning businesses will be being watched to ensure they are treating tenants fairly.

“The Government’s announcement that pubs in England can reopen from 4 July will be very welcome to tied pub tenants,” she said.

“However, many challenges and uncertainties remain for the regulated sector and the period following reopening will present pub-owning businesses with a further test of how fairly they are treating their tied tenants.

“I will therefore be looking closely at how all of the pub-owning businesses I regulated adapt their business approaches in response to the challenging new trading realities in a post Covid-19 world.

“My focus will include how they respond to their code obligations in dealing with tenants’ Covid-related debts and the impact on tied rents set on the basis of pre-Covid assumptions and expectations.

“I will also continue to press those pub-owning businesses to act fairly when offering further support to their tied tenants, even as the Covid-19 emergency restrictions are gradually loosened.”

She reiterated her call to tenants whose pub-owning businesses have not published a transparent methodology for their support that if they do not believe they are receiving fair and open support, they should take their concerns directly to their company’s code compliance officer.

Dickie added: “I will receive prompt reports from those pub-owning businesses about any unsatisfied complaints. I will be saying more about pubs code rights as the measures covered in the formal declaration signed by each pub-owning business end of 30 June.”

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Miles Beale said the opening up of pubs, bars and restaurants comes as a huge relief to the businesses who were forced to shut down overnight and left in limbo since the start of lockdown.

He added :”This includes the wine and spirit suppliers who have not been given the same access to business rate holidays and loans as the pubs and restaurants despite the sudden loss of their income.

“It is right that opening up comes with some caution in order to protect the public and ensure that we don’t end up with a second spike putting us back to square one. We look forward to seeing the Government’s guidance, including the additional mitigation measures for social distancing that is less than two metres. 

“This welcome news does not mean that the hospitality sector and their suppliers are no longer in need of Government support. Recovery from the loss of trade over the last few months will mean that some businesses will not be able to open immediately or fully and others will take years to get themselves back on an even keel.”

Related topics: Legislation

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