All legal limits on social contact are to be removed under step four of the Government’s unlockdown roadmap, in addition to reopening closed businesses such as nightclubs.
Whitehall officials are looking at removing the one metre plus social distancing rule for businesses, including the aspect of ordering and drinking at the bar in pubs, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
The Prime Minister is understood to have told Conservative MPs last week in a meeting that he was “hopeful” it would be possible to scrap this aspect for hospitality venues.
What’s more, business minister Paul Scully reportedly told trade bosses the Government was eager to allow punters back at the bar, the newspaper said.
A Cabinet Office review into the future of social distancing is expected to be published shortly, where a final decision on the one metre rule will be confirmed.
The Government’s roadmap document states this review will “help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on one metre plus, face masks and other measures may be lifted.”
Chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said reports of the PM’s enthusiasm to scrap the labour-intensive requirements “give our sector hope of a return to normality and viability on 21 June".
Vital to survival
She added: "Given pubs are financially unviable under the current restrictions they face, being able to reopen without any restrictions at all from 21 June is going to be vital to their survival.
"Our recovery only begins when the restrictions are removed, so we hope the Prime Minister will stick to his roadmap and promise of Freedom Day on 21 June."
One pub boss to plead for an end to trading restrictions including table service was Tim Foster of Yummy Pubs.
He tweeted that his pubs were “full with reduced capacity” and the stringent rules meant he was turning away “thousands of customers” each week.
Pubs full. But only full with reduced capacity. Turning thousands of customers away every week.— Tim Foster (@YummyTim) May 23, 2021
As we trade & open like this we keep the lights on but it’s not paying down the huge debts we taken on, nor is it making profit.
21st June at the latest to end this https://t.co/rP0DRVkvA6
Changes from next month would be necessary for his business to pay off debts and turn a profit, he added.
The ban on ordering at the bar puts the "hostility in hospitality," operator Gav Young, of the Plough and Barleycorn, Isle of Wight, wrote for The Morning Advertiser.
Young questioned the scientific reasoning for the table service requirement and said it was an attack on the essence of pubs.
The PM is expected to address the public this week and suggest the country is on track to progress to the next step of lockdown easing.
He will provide an update on data concerning the Indian variant of coronavirus., which has resulted in surge testing and vaccinations in some parts of England.