Pubs across the country have reported a huge demand from punters eager to return to beer gardens when permitted from next month (April).
One pub is the Bench Bistro Bar in Nantwich, Cheshire, which saw 70 individual bookings in two hours on the day Boris Johnson announced 12 April as a potential reopening date.
Operator Richard Shaw called the immediate reaction from customers “fantastic.”
He added: “Bookings have continued to come through at a strong pace. We are now fully booked for the first couple of Saturdays, and Fridays are almost full. We run a wait list for all our fully booked days.”
The pub is currently reviewing its deposit policy after no-shows “became a big issue” in the run up to Christmas, but only has a deposit system for its afternoon tea offer at the moment.
Shaw added: “We aren't too worried re the weather as we have just invested a good amount to ensure our outside area is covered and weather proof, with a tipi and stretch tent.”
What’s more, one reader of The Morning Advertiser (MA) said his pub had been “inundated” with booking requests already despite not even releasing an official opening date yet, on Facebook.
Across the New World Trading Company’s portfolio, all sites are taking bookings, including those only reopening when indoor service is permitted.
The company said weekend bookings have “flown out” for sites opening up in April while those opening in May are “ticking along.”
The Government's roadmap states that operators will be given one week's notice ahead of a reopening date. If pubs are allowed to reopen on Monday 12 April, the earliest the sector will receive confirmation is Monday 5 April.
Some operators have said they need more certainty before taking bookings and making concrete plans.
Others said they didn't trust the British weather.
We for one are not prepared to ask regulars to book for outside limited spaces, make others stand (in the rain) waiting for those regulars (their normal drinking buddies) to leave and, in the mean time, turn other non-booking regulars away.. not happening. ♂️ ♀️— Alan (@YardofAleBrewer) March 8, 2021
Speaking on a recent episode of The MA's Lock In podcast, operator James Cuthbertson said he had been resisting customers' requests for bookings, following the roadmap announcement.
He said: "All those that started celebrating last night [Monday 22 February] and saying 'we're open', have they learnt nothing in the last year? It's seven weeks away and a lot can change.
"If you're that insecure that you're trying to grab bookings from everywhere, it's going to be busy, that's the one thing you know. Why give yourself the headache of taking all the bookings only to cancel them if the world turns upside down again?
"There's no need to rush."
What's more, three out of five pubs are unlikely to reopen outside next month, according to research from the British Beer & Pub Association.