What does Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown mean for pubs?
Information gleaned from cabinet discussions suggests that various scenarios have been considered, including that of pubs being able to open in April so long as they don’t serve alcohol. The proposed ‘booze ban’ was ridiculed by landlords, who argued that implementing such a “bizarre” restriction would prevent many businesses from reopening.
Government sources have also indicated that pubs and restaurants could be allowed to open in April (and to serve alcohol), but with outdoor service only, so households can have Easter lunch together. Venues with beer gardens or access to an outside space would benefit from such an al fresco arrangement, but those that can only offer indoor service (an environment with a higher risk of the virus spreading) would be prevented from opening – a situation that many owners have admitted would mean the end of their business.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, has warned that for pubs and restaurants to open “outdoors only is is not economically feasible and delaying opening until May without significant additional compensation will see large numbers of business failures and job losses.”
She argues that it is “important to get as early a possible reopening for hospitality venues which will allow safe, regulated reopening and socialising.”
What will the face mask rules be for pubs after lockdown?
The government’s scientific advisers have suggested that the “one metre plus” rule should stay in place, and for many pus and restaurants the decision on this (which limits the number of people allowed on site) will determine whether or not they can viably reopen.
Social distancing measures such as masks (worn at all times while not eating or drinking) are likely to be implemented when venues reopen.
On the Isle of Man, meanwhile, a 25-day circuit-break – where people were banned from mixing indoors – came to an end on Feb 1 and pubs reopened with no social distancing restrictions or mask wearing. The Isle of Man – a self-governing region of the British Isles – is home to 85,000 people and there have been just 434 Covid cases and 25 deaths.
Will there still be a 10pm curfew and substantial meal rule?
The 10pm curfew that was introduced across the hospitality industry as part of the regional tier restrictions in 2020 is due to be scrapped, sources say, along with the requirement for customers to order a substantial meal with their drink. The removal of the “Scotch egg rule”, so-called after ministers caused confusion over what constituted a “substantial” meal, is thought to be part of Boris Johnson’s wish for the rules to be simplified.
Landlords and restaurant owners struggled with the lack of clarification over restrictions last year, while some police forces were criticised for their “overzealous” patrolling of pubs.
What does this mean for the hospitality industry?
The Prime Minister has in the past apologised for what he called “the unavoidable hardship” experienced by workers in the hospitality industry.
An estimated 650,000 jobs were lost across the hospitality industry in 2020, and the measures at the end of 2020 were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs.
Hospitality trade bodies are calling for a swift support package for the industry, and owners have argued the need for keeping VAT at 5 per cent. An industry campaign for the position of a dedicated hospitality minister in cabinet was submitted to government in January.
Read more: Pubs in peril: ‘They’re the glue that binds us, so why are they being pushed to the brink?’
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