The new date has been met with concern from industry bodies who fear premature reopening could lead to more hospitality job losses, and call for more government clarity
A group of Whitehall ministers (including chancellor Rishi Sunak) known, according to the Financial Times, as the 'Save Summer Six', has mooted the new date of 22 June for pubs to reopen, as opposed to the original date of 4 July.
The move would see pub gardens, terraces and balconies reopen to assist the restart of the hospitality industry, but trade bodies are concerned about lack of clarity, not enough time to reopen and the danger of more jobs being lost if social distancing rules are kept to 2m.
'Reopening pub gardens by 22 June is a risky move,' said Carmen Bryan, consumer analyst at GlobalData. 'While it is no secret that the British pub is in dire need of a saving grace, rushing to reopen the sector could lead to another spike in infections, and prolong the closure of these... businesses further.
'Should the sector reopen as planned, the seasonal weather and restlessness from consumers will drive immediate sales,' she continued. 'But for long-term sustainability, operators must understand consumers concerns and design creative and safe solutions that comply with current social distancing measures.'
It is the latter issue of the current social distancing measures that concerns UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls, who believes that the current 2m rule will have 'catastrophic' repercussions for the industry.
'With social distancing measures still in place, reopening the hospitality sector without a plan would be catastrophic,' she explained in a letter to Michael Gove. 'An extended period of social distancing will mean that many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate fully, and many will not be able to open at all. Hospitality is a sector built around socialising, so there must be government support for businesses that continue to be hit by this crisis.'
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), today also called for and 'immediate and clear decision' on the new date, reiterating that if pub beer gardens do reopen from 22 June, it is a priority that all pubs can reopen from 4 July.
This comes from the trade body citing that there needs to be a minimum of three-weeks notice for pubs to prepare for reopening, due to beer needing to be brewed and delivered in time, furloughed staff being given plenty of notice and equipment and operating systems prepared. If the date of 22 June is confirmed, they will only have two weeks to prepare.
Safety guidelines will also have to be taken into consideration regarding whether social distancing measures remain at 2m or reduce to 1m.
'We’ve always wanted to re-open our nation's pubs safely and viably as soon as possible, but we urgently need a clear decision on whether we can re-open pub beer gardens early,' commented Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive.
'Our industry needs confirmed and definitive dates so we can get pubs ready for re-opening. That includes getting safety measures in place and restocking with fresh draught beer ready to be served inside and outside of our wonderful local pubs. This requires a minimum of three weeks, but ideally four weeks is needed. The speculated date of 22 June gives us only two weeks to get ready, which may not be enough time.'