When will pubs and restaurants reopen after lockdown?

  • by

Pubs and restaurants remain closed in England – permitted to offer food and non-alcoholic drinks via takeaway, click-and-collect and drive-through only – but details of their reopening are due to be included in the announcement of a new Government “roadmap” on Monday Feb 22.

Boris Johnson announced the current national lockdown for England on Jan 4, moving the country to alert level 5 after a rise in coronavirus infections and the discovery of new variants in the UK.

It meant the continued closure of hospitality venues and restrictions on what they can and can’t sell via delivery – but with his “roadmap” out of lockdown, the Prime Minister hopes to allow Britons to steadily “reclaim our lives” from March 8.

Speaking at a Downing Street conference on Feb 16, Boris Johnson said that he wants the current Covid lockdown to be the last, admitting that the easing of restrictions should be “cautious but irreversible”.

For the hospitality industry, all eyes will be on exactly when pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars can reopen, and with what level of restrictions.

These outcomes all depend on the success of the vaccine roll out and the rate of Covid-19 deaths and cases.

When could pubs reopen?

In his conference on Feb 16, the Prime Minister stressed that there is still not enough data about the impact of vaccines on on reducing the spread of infection to pick specific reopening dates for schools, shops, pubs and restaurants – and he admitted that any reopening dates named will be “earliest” ones, rather than locked in, saying delays could follow if infection rates jumped.

The Telegraph understands that the Government is looking to implement a ‘four-stage’ plan, which could see pubs and restaurants reopen in April for outdoor serving and then in May for indoor service.

What does Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown mean for pubs?

Information gleaned from cabinet discussions suggests that various scenarios have been considered, including that of pubs being able to open in April so long as they don’t serve alcohol. The proposed ‘booze ban’ was ridiculed by landlords, who argued that implementing such a “bizarre” restriction would prevent many businesses from reopening.

Government sources have also indicated that pubs and restaurants could be allowed to open in April (and to serve alcohol), but with outdoor service only, so households can have Easter lunch together. Venues with beer gardens or access to an outside space would benefit from such an al fresco arrangement, but those that can only offer indoor service (an environment with a higher risk of the virus spreading) would be prevented from opening – a situation that many owners have admitted would mean the end of their business.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, has warned that for pubs and restaurants to open “outdoors only is is not economically feasible and delaying opening until May without significant additional compensation will see large numbers of business failures and job losses”.

She argues that it is “important to get as early a possible reopening for hospitality venues which will allow safe, regulated reopening and socialising.”

What will the face mask rules be for pubs after lockdown?

The government’s scientific advisers have suggested that the “one metre plus” rule should stay in place, and for many pubs and restaurants, the decision on this (which limits the number of people allowed on site) will determine whether or not they can viably reopen.

Social distancing measures such as masks (worn at all times while not eating or drinking) are likely to be implemented when venues reopen.

On the Isle of Man, meanwhile, a 25-day circuit-break – where people were banned from mixing indoors – came to an end on Feb 1 and pubs reopened with no social distancing restrictions or mask wearing. The Isle of Man – a self-governing region of the British Isles – is home to 85,000 people and there have been just 434 Covid cases and 25 deaths.

Will there still be a 10pm curfew and substantial meal rule?

The 10pm curfew that was introduced across the hospitality industry as part of the regional tier restrictions in 2020 is due to be scrapped, sources say, along with the requirement for customers to order a substantial meal with their drink. The removal of the “Scotch egg rule”, so-called after ministers caused confusion over what constituted a “substantial” meal, is thought to be part of Mr Johnson’s wish for the rules to be simplified.

Landlords and restaurant owners struggled with the lack of clarification over restrictions last year, while some police forces were criticised for their “overzealous” patrolling of pubs.

What does this mean for the hospitality industry?

The Prime Minister has in the past apologised for what he called “the unavoidable hardship” experienced by workers in the hospitality industry.

An estimated 650,000 jobs were lost across the hospitality industry in 2020, and the measures at the end of 2020 were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs.

Hospitality trade bodies are calling for a swift support package for the industry, and owners have argued the need for keeping VAT at 5 per cent. An industry campaign for the position of a dedicated hospitality minister in cabinet was submitted to government in January.

Read more: Pubs in peril: ‘They’re the glue that binds us, so why are they being pushed to the brink?’

Should pubs reopen? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below