Pub and bar operators had hoped to see the end to restrictions including mandated table service and social distancing from Monday 21 June while nightclubs were desperate to reopen.
But Boris Johnson said the Delta variant posed too much of a threat to progress to the fourth and final unlocking step, in a Downing Street press conference tonight (Monday 14 June).
He said cases of the virus were growing by 64% each week with some examples of cases doubling every week in the worst-hit areas.
A delay would mean a “few more crucial weeks” to provide second doses of the vaccine to the most vulnerable, Johnson said.
He urged the public to “wait just a little longer” until Monday 19 July when it is hoped two thirds of the adult population will have been double jabbed.
“We cannot simply eliminate Covid, we must learn to live with it,” the Prime Minister said.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said the delay would cost pubs £400m and called for a “full package of Government support” until the sector could reopen fully without restrictions.
BBPA boss Emma McClarkin said: “Delaying the removal of Covid restrictions by four weeks is incredibly hard for our sector to stomach.
“Our pubs require, as a minimum, an immediate three month extension to the business rates holiday, the ability to defer loan payments due now and a further extension of VAT support. Grants for businesses particularly affected, such as those pubs who cannot still reopen because of the current restrictions, must now also be put in place.”
Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said he understood "the need to follow the data" but called the announcement "a huge blow" for the sector.
He added: "We now face further uncertainty and must wait even longer before we can start profitably trading, something that we have been unable to do since the start of the pandemic. We also risk losing out on the substantial amount of trade that comes with the Euros, a disappointment for us and for our customers that were looking forward getting that matchday atmosphere back.”
“It is crucial that the government continues to support the industry financially until restrictions are fully eased," Mackenzie added.
The end of the business rates holiday on 30 June would increase the business's outgoing costs by £250,000 a day while it continued to lose millions daily because of capacity limits, he explained.
Mackenzie added: "Without this support, the sector, which has already been crippled during the last 15 months, will be in a highly precarious position.”
For Sussex-based brewer and pub operator Harvey’s Brewery, table service has had the single biggest impact of all restrictions and had been “very expensive.”
The brewery’s business development manager Dave Paterson said a delay meant his venues would receive hardly any benefit from the EURO football tournament.
“Having more people able to meet together inside would have been a big boost to us,” he added.
Night-life bosses warned of business failures in the coming months in the event of a delay and had said they were poised to launch a legal challenge against the Government.
Night Time Industries Association CEO Michael Kill described the delay as a "hugely devastating blow" for nightclubs, which have been closed since pandemic restrictions were introduced in March 2020.
"In a very real sense, the Prime Minister has ‘switched the lights off’ for an entire sector," Kill added.
"Many businesses have not survived this pandemic and others are on a financial cliff-edge, unable to operate viably. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost, a huge pool of creative talent has been swept away, and we have been left to suffer extreme financial hardship.”