I’ve got this – Independence Day, right?
Spot on. But this date now has extra significance this side of The Pond – for hospitality businesses and pub and restaurant goers at any rate – as this is the date that the sector can finally reopen for dine in customers.
So more of a Renaissance Day?
For many businesses yes, at it will be the first time they have served any customers at all since Boris announced the lockdown on 23 March. And while some restaurants and pubs have been serving customers during lockdown through takeaway and delivery – and also drive-thru – 4 July marks the first time they will be able to welcome customers back into their premises and gardens for a much-missed meal out or pint.
Hurrah! Things are getting back to normal…
Steady on, this isn’t intended to be a free-for-all and businesses still have to take measures to ensure the safety of their customers and staff. The Government has produced a 43-page advisory document for operators with guidance advising that indoor table service must be used 'where possible' and with a single staff member per table. To help the sector, the government has also relaxed the two-metre distancing rule to ‘one metre plus’.
One metre plus what? This sounds confusing…
It means that people should remain at least one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission (which is the plus bit). For hospitality businesses, the Government has been less forthcoming with what these mitigations might be, however, with confusion over whether tables set back to back can be closer together, where and when Perspex screens are needed – if at all - and whether they reduce distancing if used. What this does all amount to, is that places will have to limit the number of booking they take at any one time, possibly greatly reducing numbers in some places.
So, is this going to put people off going out on the 4th?
For some, maybe, but not for a lot of people judging by reports from some businesses of their phones and reservations sites going crazy since they started taking bookings. People can’t wait to get back into their local pubs and restaurants it seems.
What can we expect then?
Hopefully restaurants and pubs full (or as full as permitted) of very understanding people with money in their pockets and a propensity to tip big. That said, some commentators are suggesting that the combination of a hot Saturday (but it will be July, so the weather could also be terrible) and people finally being allowed back into pubs could be a recipe for disaster with people possibly overindulging. One thing that you can count on is that some of the tabloid papers that have been championing the reopening of the pub for much of lockdown will be sending cub reporters and photographers down to some of England’s bigger drinking establishments to catch people ignoring social distancing.
It’s great that everything’s open again. I’m going to make a booking
Good to hear. But we didn’t say everything’s open. While 4 July is the date when businesses can reopen, many are taking more tentative steps with plans to reopen later on. High-profile examples include Restaurant Sat Bains, Claude Bosi at Bibendum and Mere, which won’t reopen just yet. And then there’s the smaller or counter-led restaurants that simply can’t reopen even under the one metre plus rule. And let’s not forget, 4 July is just the beginning of fresh struggles for many in the sector that still need much more support from the Government in order to survive, particularly in terms of rent payments. But here’s hoping it at least marks the start of some form of renaissance for hospitality.