Restaurants and pubs can reopen on 4 July, with less than two metre distancing, says Government

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants and pubs can reopen on 4 July, with less than two metre distancing Coronavirus lockdown

Related tags: Pubs, Restaurant, Casual dining, Fine dining, lockdown, Coronavirus

Restaurants, pubs and hotels will be able to open from 4 July in England with social distancing rules also being eased, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed.

While Johnson said that people should remain two metres apart where possible, businesses where this is not possible, such as those in the hospitality sector, could observe a ‘one metre plus’ rule.

All indoor hospitality operations will be limited to table service only with businesses encouraged to have ‘minimal staff and customer interaction'.

Announcing the new measure in the House of Commons today (23 June), Johnson said that “at every stage caution should remain” and the both decisions were “conditional and reversable”.

The Government said it would be releasing sector specific guidelines on how businesses can reopen and operate safely in due course.

The news, which was widely anticipated, has been welcomed by the hospitality sector, although many will be waiting on what the specific guidelines will be before finalising their reopening plans.

"Good to finally hear this news but we have yet to see the detail and how much of the guidance is ‘where possible' for example on taking names and contact details for all guests,” says Hospitality Union’s Jonathan Downey.

"10 days' notice to reopening is a practical impossibility for many and, with one-metre distancing, economically unviable for most. But we will crack on and this is a start.

“If the first few weeks go well, I'm sure there will be further relaxation, and I look forward to our nightclubs, music venues and leisure spaces opening at full capacity soon."

Downey has also voiced his disappointment over the rule that indoor eating and drinking would have to be table service only, saying that venues like his Dinerama operation in Shoreditch can’t open yet.

“It could be a few weeks before enough people feel good about coming out to make it worthwhile opening a 1,000 capacity venue,” he says, adding that he hopes there would be some standing and eating and drinking allowed later in the summer.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the announcement, saying: “Having confirmation of the reopening date is a real boon and affords businesses some time to make the necessary preparations. We are still awaiting the publication of guidance, and we have been working hard to make sure that businesses are fully equipped with our own reopening guidelines, but the initial clarity around the date is very helpful.

 “The Government has given due recognition to how hard hospitality has been hit by this crisis. Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen. Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secures businesses and jobs.

 “We know that many people will be keen to get out and support their local pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, and to return to leisure and holiday pursuits.

 “While many venues will endeavour to reopen on 4 July, capacities will be constrained by social distancing and some may be unable to trade viably at all, so continued Government support will remain crucial. Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills. 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.”

With regards to the reduction of social distancing, she adds: “Reducing the minimum distance will be a huge help to hospitality. The two-metre rule would have capped capacity for most venues at around 30%. That would have been totally unviable for most businesses and would have risked even more jobs and the futures of venues. Reduction to one-metre should see most venues able to trade at around 70% of capacity, which could be the difference between failure and staying alive to see out the remainder of the crisis, particularly with added support.”

Jane Pendlebury, the CEO Hospitality Professionals Association, also welcomed the news, saying: “Having a definite opening date means hospitality can finally see a way forward – with the relaxation of the social distancing rule a huge relief for hoteliers and others in the industry.

“Reducing the social distancing measures then will have a huge impact. To outline the difference it makes, revenue management modelling suggests that 2-metre social distancing, which effectively creates a 4-metre diameter, reduces restaurant revenue to as little as 7% – a non-viable return given the factors involved.

 "This changes considerably though as the distance is reduced. The proposed 1-metre distancing, equating to a 2-metre diameter of space, allows for around 45% of revenue. While this is still a huge reduction, if hoteliers and other restaurateurs are creative in their approach, they can work to increase those margins by implementing a variety of measures.

"This, at least gives them a chance to head in the right direction, enabling the opportunity to develop a workable service.”

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