Pubs could open from July with social distancing, minister says

PUBS could start to reopen as soon as July – but with boozing only in beer gardens and pints brought by table service.

Ministers are in talks with pub bosses to work out how they can get our locals back in business.

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The key is finding ways to allow drinkers to socially distance from each other and staff.

July 4 has been mooted as a possible start date.

Pubs with outside spaces are set to open first — provided they can offer table service. Contactless payment is thought to be a must ­and some may use new apps to order and pay.

It is easier to space drinkers out in a beer garden and scientists say the virus spreads less outside, compared to within enclosed spaces.

That means it will be a while before small, cosy pubs re-open their doors to customers.

But big pubs where there is enough room inside to keep people apart could be next to get the nod — again with table service to avoid a build-up at bars.

Perspex screens, like those seen in supermarkets, could be used to shield diners from other tables and walkways.

Eventually, when ordering at a bar is allowed — perhaps in the autumn — screens might also be put up on the counters.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told the Commons: "We are already working with the hospitality and pub sector to identify what social distancing measures they might be able to put in place.

“As the Prime Minister has outlined, we intend that the hospitality sector, including pubs, would be able to tentatively start gradually opening, hopefully during July — subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move.”

He was referring to phase three of the lockdown easing plan, which includes pubs. The talks come as welcome news for lockdown Brits keen to catch up with friends and family over a pint away from home.

Mr Eustice added: "Of course we also recognise that until things return to something closer to normal and they can open normally, hopefully later this summer, then it will not give them all of the trade they previously had."

There were fears that pubs might not reopen until Christmas because of the difficulties with social distancing.

Pub bosses on Monday called for the two-metre (6½ft) rule to be halved.
They said most pubs are too small for it to be imposed.

In some cases it would allow so few customers it might not be economical to open.

Simon Emeny, the chief executive of brewer Fuller’s, said the World Health Organisation advises one metre (3.2ft) — which would allow four times as many customers. He said: “I think it’s really important that rules are relaxed by the time pubs reopen.”

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, said it would be “profoundly challenging” to keep people two metres apart ­and that could force most pubs to stay shut.”

The British Beer and Pub Association’s chief executive Emma McClarkin warned that a long-term shutdown would have a devastating impact on an industry already in decline.
But she said: “Re-opening in July will be great for those pubs who can meet the social-distancing measures required by then.

“We stand ready to work with the Government to help pubs re-open in a safe and financially viable way as soon as possible.

“Actioning advice from the WHO — for example to use one metre for social distancing from July — would enable many more pubs to viably re-open and serve their communities again.”

Brewers and pubs have already had to dispose of the equivalent of 70million pints of beer that had gone stale.

Opening pub gardens gives them some hope — and would allow the two-metre rule to stay for now.

Another option is limiting pub-goers to a set number of drinks. This would help to stagger visitors and stop pubs getting jammed — making it easier to apply social distancing.
The idea was suggested by an expert who is part of a team advising the Government on lockdown.
Eyal Winter, an economist at Lancaster University, said beer could be rationed to two or three pints per customer.
That method is likely to be preferred to giving drinkers a set amount of time, say an hour or two. There are fears a time limit could encourage binge boozing.
Pub bosses reckon both suggestions would be hard to enforce.


In mid-May Boris Johnson laid out the "first careful steps" of easing the coronavirus lockdown as part of a three-phase plan to get back to normal life.

In an address to the nation he revealed a detailed roadmap of how to get Britain back on its feet, but still keep the deadly virus under control.


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