The East Midlands city was subjected to local lockdown measures after a significant number of coronavirus cases were recorded at the end of last month, meaning pubs and bars were not able to reopen on ‘Super Saturday’ 4 July.
Pubs will be able to reopen from Monday 3 August, though they are subject to the latest restrictions on gatherings between households that were introduced after a rise in infection in parts of England. Different households can no longer meet up at pubs and bars in order to tackle coronavirus transmission in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.
Brewer and operator Everards operates 23 pubs affected by the Leicester lockdown and welcomed the news.
Stephen Gould, managing director, said: “We’re pleased that our pubs in the Leicester lockdown area can now choose to reopen from Monday. All of our Business Owners have worked hard to ensure that they will be offering a safe environment for their staff, customers and local community.
“It’s been a long 19 weeks for those affected but many have continued to serve their communities throughout by offering takeaways, pop up shops and online quizzes. They look forward to welcoming back customers into their pubs.”
Alan Merryweather owns the Black Horse pub in Aylestone, Leicester, and was excited to begin trading again, with the site set to open to the public again on Tuesday 4 August.
He told The Morning Advertiser: “We have had 20 weeks without earning a living, we had a very welcome grant but that only paid the bills. Now we have finally got a chance to welcome people back and to earn a living.”
However, despite his excitement, Merryweather said he was disappointed by the Government’s communication of local restrictions on pubs.
He said: “I'm just appalled with the Government, they have treated us appallingly. We will do everything asked of us like Test and Trace. But how do I govern that [different households meeting at pubs]?”
Pubs in some parts of Leicestershire had already been given the go-ahead to reopen before this owing to progress in reducing cases of the virus. Steve Ward runs the Harrow Inn in Thurmaston and was able to reopen last Monday (20 July), describing the experience as “a learning curve.”
explained: “The hot good weather has brought out the drinkers and of course with drink the social distance outside seems to go out the window. I seem to spend a lot of my time asking groups to give distance. We have been lucky so far - touch wood.”
Ward added that he was confused by the Government’s advice that pubs discourage households from going out together, ahead of its Eat Out to Help Out scheme launching next week.
He added: “At the minute the government guidelines for Leicester are so confusing. My big fear from what I see in Leicester is that we will see another spike in numbers of the virus and another lockdown.”
“Next week we see the start of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and we have lots of bookings coming in. So on one hand the Government says you cannot meet two families in your own garden yet you can fill a pub with food offers.”
Not all pubs in the city are rushing to reopen. Operator Kieran Lyons of the Blue Boar said he would wait until the additional restrictions were eased before declaring his micropub back in business.
He said: “We were always planning to wait a couple of weeks after restrictions were lifted. The ban on different households meeting means we just cannot operate at a profitable capacity, as a lot of our customers come alone, so we will have to wait for that extra restriction to be lifted too.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Pubs in and around Leicester will be both delighted and relieved they can now reopen following their extended lockdown. Many of the pubs in the area had been getting ready to reopen on 4 July and invested great amounts of time and money to do so. It is great they can now safely reopen and serve the communities once more.”