Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in England may soon reopen for the first time since the foreclosure began in March.
But despite the relaxation of restrictions, a trip to a local bar or restaurant could be a very different experience than it was before the coronavirus.
When will the reopening start?
In its stimulus document released on May 11, the government said the hotel sector – which includes pubs, bars and restaurants – could start reopening “as early as July 4”, if security guidelines Covid-19 could be met.
The government has yet to announce the details of the guidelines, but they are expected to include rules on social distancing, improved hygiene procedures and the protection of bar and restaurant staff.
It will provide “safer work directions” for restaurants, pubs and bars “as soon as possible,” said business secretary Alok Sharma during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing.
What are the rules now?
On March 20, all pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes were asked to close in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The only exceptions to this rule were cafes and canteens in a few selected places such as schools, hospitals and prisons.
Since then, many restaurants have started offering take-out and take-out food to generate income while their doors are closed. Some pubs have also been allowed to offer take-away beers.
What about the rest of the UK?
Each nation in the UK sets their own rules for reopening food and beverage stores:
- The Scottish government has defined a phased approach to the reopening of pubs and restaurants, but has not yet given a date by which this could take place.
- Prime Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford refused to promise “pub reopening”
- Executive in Northern Ireland to discuss subject on June 11
What are the main obstacles to reopening?
The main concern of many people in the hotel industry is the issue of social isolation. Some insisted that the current 2-meter distance rule prevents bars, cafes and restaurants from making a profit.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said that with a 2 million rule, outlets could only generate about 30% of normal revenue, while 1 million would increase that figure to 60- 75%.
Some Conservative MPs have added support for reducing social distancing, and the Prime Minister said on June 10 that the 2 million rule was “constantly being reviewed.”
What other measures could be taken?
The Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca says it is considering a series of measures to ensure the safety of staff and workers during a pandemic.
Customers are likely to be able to order food from the apps, while staff are encouraged to wash their hands every 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Wetherspoons pub chain said its staff would be given face masks and goggles and that they would offer a reduced food menu.
The bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise will be replaced by individual sachets. Guests will also be encouraged to sit outside in the pub gardens, while some indoor seating areas will be separated by Perspex screens.
How is the hotel industry coping with foreclosure?
The hotel sector was the third largest employer in the country in 2018, according to UK Hospitality.
But many restaurants and cafes were already struggling, even before the Covid-19 epidemic, in the face of rising rents and falling consumer spending.
Since the start of the lockdown, job cuts and closings have been announced by channels such as Frankie & Benny’s and Carluccio’s.
3rdfirst British employer in 2018
3.2 millionworkers in the sector
99%hotel companies are SMEs
£ 130 billionannual turnover in 2018
67%expect there to be “months” before you go to a restaurant
Source: UK Hospitality, EY
Thousands of industrial workers have been put on leave under the government’s job retention program, which allows them to receive 80% of their monthly salary up to £ 2,500.
What have other countries done?
Many other countries have already reopened restaurants, bars and cafes around the world. In some cases, they have used lower social distancing recommendations – in France, for example, the recommended distance between client and staff is 1 m.
- Catering establishments in Paris can now serve customers on outdoor terraces, but staff must wear masks, and customers must also wear masks when on the go
- In Berlin, restaurants, cafes and snack kiosks are open and people from two separate households are allowed to share a table, if they are within 1.5 m of each other
- Spanish bars and restaurants are now allowed to reopen if they respect social distancing rules and only operate at 50% of their capacity
- Restaurants, bars, and cafes in Italy reopened in May – restaurants must accommodate a reduced number of diners, with more spaced tables and plastic shields to separate customers