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Cautious Welcome as Indoor Hospitality in England to Reopen on 17 May

The Pub and hospitality sector has cautiously welcomed the indoor reopening of UK businesses but warned that outlets will continue to lose money until restrictions are completely eased.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses will be able to open indoor areas from Monday May 17.

The Prime Minister said hospitality outlets will be able to reopen these areas in line with the original road map out of lockdown after case numbers continued to decrease in recent weeks.

The four tests of lockdown easing had been met the PM added and thanked “pubs and restaurants who have been waiting to welcome customers back through their doors”.

The announcement means the hospitality industry will be able to serve customers inside no  although they will however, be limited to table service and social distancing rules will apply.

All hotels, hostels and B&Bs will also be able to open,  as opposed to those only those offering self-contained accommodation, as well as conference centres.

People can meet inside in a group of six or maximum of two households, while groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors or attend weddings and receptions.

“This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident that we will be able to go further,” said PM.

He added that England remains “on track” for a further lifting of restrictions on 21 June, and will reveal later this month what the role could be for ‘vaccine passports’ to help with unlocking.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the announcement was a “much welcome” next step but warned hospitality was facing its 14th month of disrupted trading.

“There is a huge sense of relief within the sector, in particular for the six in 10 venues that were not able to reopen over recent weeks due to a lack of outdoor space,” said Nicholls.

“However, with significant restrictions still in place, this is a psychological opening rather than an economic one, with the profitability of the sector still a huge issue. This is why sticking to the roadmap and the removal of all restrictions by 21 June is absolutely crucial.

“Hospitality, as it emerges from restrictions, is still in a fragile state and continued government support will be critical to ensuring the sector is rejuvenated and plays a full role in the wider economic recovery.”

Steven Alton, BII CEO commented: “Whilst we welcome this next stage for many of our members, we fully recognize that the remaining restrictions that limit capacity in venues, will severely impact on profitable trading.Our members’ pubs will not start their recovery until all restrictions are removed, no later than 21st June 2021. It is critical that Government confirms this at the earliest opportunity, to allow our members time to plan for a full reopening, financially and operationally.

Nick Antona, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said pubs “aren’t out of the woods yet”.”Distancing and table service-only restrictions will still mean many pubs can’t operate at full capacity with many continuing to struggle to make ends meet as a result,” he said.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), added: “This is another important step on the road to freedom and the recovery of our sector. We know Brits cannot wait to get back inside a warm pub.

“However, inside opening with restrictions is still not enough to secure the survival of pubs. We need them to be fully reopened without any restrictions at all from 21 June to survive and trade viably.”

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: “It’s great that from next Monday we’ll be able to welcome our customers back inside our pubs and get more of our team members back to work. Since we reopened outdoors in some of our pubs in April, frequent spells of cold and wet weather have made it particularly trying for our teams who are serving our customers outside. Even though the vast majority of our of our pubs will be open next week, we’ll still be operating at significantly reduced capacity, so it’s essential all restrictions disappear as promised on 21 June so we can return to the full pub experience that people have missed so much.”

“We would urge the devolved nations to urgently confirm the conditions for full reopening of our members’ pubs across the UK.”

Indoor entertainment venues will also be able to reopen from 17 May and some larger theatre, music and sporting events will be able to return inside with a capacity of 1,000 people or while half-full.

Outdoor sites can welcome up to 4,000 people or up to half of their capacity, if it is the lower number.

The final stage for lockdown restriction lifting is 21 June, after which the government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact, which, if permitted, will see venues such as nightclubs able to reopen for the first time in over a year and restrictions on large events will ease.