Pubs and restaurants can reopen from 4 July – but questions still remain

Kate Malczewski

Kate Malczewski

23 June 2020

Restaurants and pubs are allowed to reopen from 4 July, social distancing has been reduced from two metres to ‘one metre plus’, and businesses will be encouraged to collect the contact details of customers

After urgent calls for guidance from the hospitality industry, prime minister Boris Johnson has today given a long-awaited speech on the easing of lockdown measures in the UK, including the reopening of on-trade venues.

Reopening guidance

From 4 July, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen, serving customers both indoors – limited to table service only – and outdoors.

The reopening will be facilitated by the relaxation of social distancing from two metres to what the prime minister calls ‘one metre plus’, remaining a metre away from others while taking additional protective measures such as wearing a mask.

Johnson also announced that venues should collect contact details from their customers ‘to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks’. ‘We will work with the sector to make this manageable,’ he added.

Industry leaders respond

The prime minister’s announcement has been met positively overall, but industry advocates recognise that much more needs to be done to help businesses recover.

‘The opening up of our pubs, bars and restaurants comes as a huge relief to the businesses who were forced to shut down overnight and left in limbo since the start of lockdown,’ said Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. ‘This includes the wine and spirit suppliers who have not been given the same access to business rate holidays and loans as the pubs and restaurants despite the sudden loss of their income.

‘This welcome news does not mean that the hospitality sector and their suppliers are no longer in need of government support. 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.’ 

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls echoed Beale's statement. ‘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,’ she commented. ‘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.’

As if to illustrate Nicholls’ point, Jonathan Downey, founder of London bar Milk & Honey and organiser of the #NationalTimeOut campaign, tweeted: ‘We’ve been forced to close Milk & Honey since Tuesday 17 March. That’s 14 weeks. We won’t be re-opening on 4 July because we’re a small, intimate venue and 1m distancing makes it unviable. We’ve just received our June rent quarter bill though. It’s for £57,300.’

Today’s address has provided much-needed information for the hospitality industry, but it has also raised more questions. Some are centred on the details of reopening: Beyond wearing masks, what are the additional measures staff and customers must take to ensure ‘one metre plus’ distancing is effective? How does the government plan on working with the hospitality sector to collect contact details?

Others speak to the larger issues raised by Nicholls and Downey: how, in dire financial circumstances, can venues reopen at all? We anticipate further calls for clarity and support in the coming days.

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