‘People will be better managed in the pub than anywhere else’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Getting ready: operators are gearing up in preparation for reopening
Getting ready: operators are gearing up in preparation for reopening

Related tags: Coronavirus

Pubs have reacted to widespread concerns about the public hitting high streets this weekend when venues can reopen (Saturday 4 July).

This comes after reports Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the public to act sensibly this weekend.

A joint statement from the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality, the London Night Czar and the National Police Chief’s Council on pubs reopening said: “We are conscious the past few months in lockdown have involved a huge amount of sacrifice from everyone, so it is fantastic that our pubs can finally reopen after all this time.

“We know people are keen to begin to get life back to normal and understand the important role the pub can play in that.

“We are looking forward to welcoming people back into pubs in villages, towns and cities across the country this weekend, but we also want to impress upon people the importance of behaving responsibly.

“We ask pubgoers to be supportive of landlords and pub staff, helping them to reopen in the best way possible. It's important everyone respects the new measures in place to ensure everyone can enjoy the return of our pubs safely.

“If we all work together we can ensure that the reopening of pubs and hospitality is a success and an enjoyable experience for everyone.”

The Dog at Wingham in Kent is reopening this weekend (Saturday 4 July) and owner Marc Bridgen criticised the day of the week pubs are allowed to reopen from.

He added: “Why the hell are we opening on a Saturday and not a Monday? The dangers of opening on a Saturday is yes we are unleashing the nation on alcohol in venues and they are going to want to go for it, even though they have been going for it at home and in parks an on beaches, it's going to be different.

“The risks are amplified. But if they had opened us on a Monday, we would have got near weekend trading volume Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and we would have basically had two weekends in a week. The Government have ballsed that up in my opinion.”

However, he went on to outline how pubs can manage customers and their behaviour in a responsible way.

Bridgen said: “This is controlled. The majority of venues have CCTV, the staff are going to be hotter than ever.

“Most places I know is table service, which will control it. We are going to be controlling it to what people have.

“This seems like a much more sensible approach and you could argue it could take some strain off the police force. People are in controlled environments.”

Better situation

The licensee also highlighted how having facilities open in pubs will solve issues taking place in the communities.

He added: “We can open our toilets. Places have been serving alcohol pubs or shops and people are consuming it and there's nowhere for them to go to the toilet.

“There have been problems where pubs are serving beer but toilets aren't open, which has led to massive problems within the community.

“So now, with pubs opening, it should be a better situation that what has been seen over the past month especially.

“For the first time we are going to have contact details for everyone in the building so should there be any issues, the police will have everything they need to follow up.”

James Ratcliffe from the Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria, which is reopening on Thursday 9 July, outlined his places for restarting.

He said: “We have spaced the tables inside, 19 tables inside. We have an outdoor space where there is a bar so we've got about 14 to 15 tables out there.

“The rule for us will be 'no table, no service' basically to discourage people as it could be a sunny day with hoards coming in, sitting on the grass and ignoring distancing.

“We have got to put extra staff on to ensure we are policing people, ensuring they are adhering to social distancing.

“It doesn't work in our favour to be seen not to. For the sake of getting a couple of extra people in, while this is going on, it's just not worth it, the backlash you would have from the public and it's the moral responsibility you've got as a landlord.

“Especially for us. We are in a small town with an elderly population, we have to be showing we are responsible.”

Ratcliffe laid out how people gathering on beaches hasn’t been managed and by pubs opening, this can be policed.

Strict rules

He added: “If you look at all the people on Bournemouth beach, if the pubs were open, a load of those people would go to the pub so they wouldn't be in one spot and we can police them a lot more.

“There's nobody policing Bournemouth beach, telling those people to social distancing or have any control.

“Most people are putting in strict rules, a lot of people are sticking to two-metre apart tables because it works in their favour in terms of PR.

“We will be able to police it better in the pub than anywhere else. At some stage people have got to start enjoying themselves. If we start to open things back up again then they can start to be controlled.”

Ratcliffe went on to emphasise how the industry is well-placed to be adaptable and change accordingly with situations such as the pandemic.

He added: “The good thing about the pub trade and while there is quite a bit of panic about reopening, I've heard people saying they will take minimum spends and having certain slot but no one knows what it is going to be like.

“We are an industry that is used to thinking on its feet. We have to react to situations before they happen. There are days you get busy and don't expect to get busy and you react to it.

“We are quite capable and adaptable to be able to cope with a situation, probably a lot more than other industries because we are used to dealing with people, which is the difficult bit.”

Licensee of the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London Heath Ball isn’t reopening this weekend and is concerned about the trade’s reputation upon the restart.

He said: “It's better we are managing it. Operationally, thinking about how this all works. That is why I'm sitting back this weekend to see what happens.

“They are calling it ‘Super Saturday’. It's going to be an episode on Brits Abroad​. It's carnage in the parks.

“But, you [operators] cut them off and give people a time limit on tables. If you don't, that's a danger because you could have someone sat there for eight hours, drinking. You need door staff to ensure who is coming in isn't intoxicated.

“It's better we manage it but this Saturday (4 July) won't be good publicity for hospitality. People don't care any more. With Cummings and his northern jaunt.

“Boris [Johnson] lost the confidence of the nation and people have become lawless. This weekend will really be lawless and that's why I've held back.

“People are going to be really hard to manage this weekend. You're going to have to be really on your game. The last thing you want is the council or police turning up and saying 'let's go through your compliance' and there will be.

“You don't want to be told 'you've got too many people in here, you're not social distancing, close down'. It's not going to be pretty."

Related topics: Health & safety

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