Three months since being ordered to close their doors on 23 March, UK restaurants, pubs and bars will be allowed to reopen from 4 July, prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday (23 June).
Officials have cut the social distance rule from two metres to ‘one metre plus’, as part of plans to further relax the coronavirus lockdown.
More specific guidelines for social distancing and safety in restaurants and bars would follow, the government said.
The reopening of winery tasting rooms and restaurants in other countries has led to a range of measures, including face masks for staff, single-use menus and more outdoor seating.
Trade body UK Hospitality welcomed the move to reopen venues and said ‘clarity around the date is very helpful’.
It said that retaining the two-metre rule would have capped capacity at many venues at around 30%. This should rise to 70% with the one-metre guideline.
However, it called for swift clarification from the government on new safety guidelines, so that bar and restaurant owners can prepare. It also called for clarity and on ‘track and trace’ plans, following speculation that venues will need to register customers’ details.
It warned that the sector remains in a precarious position, too.
‘We need financial help from the government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again,’ said UK Hospitality’s CEO, Kate Nicholls.
Her point was echoed by Miles Beale, CEO of the UK Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who warned that wine suppliers also faced hardship and didn’t have ‘the same access to business rate holidays and loans as the pubs and restaurants’.
He said continued government support was important.
‘Recovery from the loss of trade over the last few months will mean that some businesses will not be able to open immediately or fully and others will take years to get themselves back on an even keel.’
Jonny Jones, director of client services at analyst group CGA, said that if venues can open at 70% capacity then ‘our data suggests there is enough pent-up demand to max out sales at this level of supply, but many consumers are still cautious about returning to the trade and want to see precautions put in place to ensure their safety’.