On the 20 March, the government announced the closure of entertainment, hospitality and indoor leisure venues, leaving many of us feeling at loss with what we were supposed to do. Nearly three months on, much of the hospitality sector (including pubs, bars and restaurants) is set to reopen in early July.
But despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, taking a trip to our local pub might look very different to what it used to.
When are the pubs opening?
In an announcement made earlier today (23 June), the Prime Minister confirmed that pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from Saturday 4 July. The news ties in with the recovery strategy document published by the government last month, where they stated that the hospitality sector could begin reopening in July, as long as Covid-19 regulations and guidelines are met.
In a bid to support the reopening of the hospitality sector, the government has also relaxed the two-metre social distance to "one metre plus."
But the government has said that they "will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control."
What will it look like when pubs reopen?
Understandably, walking into a pub as we know it has changed forever. But what exactly can we expect once pubs reopen? Social distancing measures will definitely be put in place, perhaps limiting the amount of people allowed in pubs. One-way systems and two metre markings are likely to implemented in most places. And it’s looking like mustering up a conversation with a stranger whilst stood at the bar will become a thing of the past.
According to a document submitted to ministers by UKHospitality, it’s possible that things like salt and pepper shakers will be removed from tables, propping up against the bar will be banned and menus might even be limited. Other measures might include screens at bars and between tables, cashless paying and limits to the number of pints people can drink. There's also talk of staff wearing face masks.
On top of this, there might be changes to shift patterns, mandatory table service and an increasing use of hand sanitiser. A government spokesperson has said the guidelines will be updated very soon.
Will landlords have to police social distancing?
It’s likely that landlords will have to ensure punters are following social distancing measures in pubs.
Will standard opening hours be the same?
We're unsure whether standard opening hours will be the same, as there has been no mention from the government.
Will there be enough beer?
As long as pubs aim to reopen on the 4 July, they should have enough time to organise stock.
What are the challenges of reopening?
Prior to the government reducing the social distance to "one metre plus", the main worry for many pubs was whether they could commit to a two-metre social distancing rule. The Chief Executive at UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls said: “It is vital that reopening is done in the right way, at the right time and with the right support so that our industry can help rebuild shattered consumer confidence and bring the nation back together safely over the coming months.”
The Industry trade body had also noted that by endorsing a two-metre rule, some businesses may only be able to make 30% of normal revenues. Whereas, a one-metre rule would increase that to 60-75%.
Now that the social distance has been reduced by the government, pubs and restaurants will have a better chance at a successful reopening.
What have some pubs been doing during lockdown?
In order to stay alive, some pubs and restaurants have been opening for delivery only. Many have been offering a set menu of food, or simply opting to sell takeaway booze.
Pub company, Greene King, opened 29 of its pubs in London at the end of May. The pubs have been operating a takeaway service in a bid to provide punters with their favourite gastro pubs dishes at home.
Exciting news! We’re reopening 29 of our Metropolitan pubs in London for takeaway & delivery from 22 May. Customers in the capital will be able to order their gastro pub favourites, including beer battered haddock & roast chicken on Sunday #pubs #pubfood https://t.co/V9vRiBvMRk pic.twitter.com/WSy4bSnfsd— Greene King (@greeneking) May 14, 2020
Signature Brew has even launched a 'Pub In A Box.' The brewery is quite literally packing a box full of pub-esque items and delivering them to your door.
What will the future of pubs look like?
It’s difficult to predict what the future will look like for pubs. Will the industry survive? We certainly hope so! In an attempt to save the future of pubs, a number of trade associations that represent pubs across the UK, have issued a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter reads: "The current crisis casts an existential shadow over the future of these national treasures and we are calling on the Chancellor to act, before many of them – and their valuable jobs, social benefits and economic contributions - are lost to us for good."
"We know that pubs, hospitality and brewers can be crucial in driving economic recovery. We thank the Chancellor for his support thus far but urge him to enable venues across the country to play their role by opening in a safe fashion, when the time is right. Surviving the crisis can only happen with further support from Government, allowing pubs to not only pull through but deliver future prosperity."
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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