Pubs and restaurants may be allowed to reopen in April so long as they do not serve alcohol, according to reports which emerged at the weekend.
While other options are being considered by the government which include keeping pubs shut until May but allowing them to serve takeaway pints from April, report that opening pubs forbidding them from serving alcohol is the one causing the most concern.
However, a senior government source told the Daily Mail an alcohol ban in pubs was not on the cards, “We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze. What would be the point of that?” Other measures being floated include axing the 10pm curfew for pubs, which has been given the go-ahead according to some reports, along with an end to the requirement for drinkers to order a “substantial meal” with alcohol.
Industry observers took to social media to voice their concerns about the impact the proposals would have in the sector.
Emma McClarkin CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association said: “Opening pubs without selling alcohol is not “reopening” pubs at all. Selling alcohol in a safe environment is at the core of what we do. Despite our business model being stripped bare, the very core of what we do is now under attack. This has to stop.”
UK hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said on Twitter; “ reopening in name only inflicts irreparable damage on hospitality as we saw October to December with restrictions with little meaningful impact on health or harm, pushing revenues as low as 20 to 30%. Unsustainable for restaurants and pubs”
He also added “hospitality reopening in July with the toughest Covid protocols in the world-risk assessed with controls and capacity managed social distancing hygiene and ventilation. It kept people safe, 60 visits a week, no increase in cases and less than 1% of staff coat Covid-it’s the model. But let’s be clear operating under those controls our hospitality and tourist businesses did not even break even.”
“So the need to be the firm starting point and we should look to progressively ease them to allow businesses to survive, recover, rebuild and help reimagine communities. That’s why hospitality will need longer term support is a trade its way out of and through this. Extend lower rate of VAT and business rates holiday will help us do that and get the economy back on its feet quickly, deliver jobs, growth and investment at pace, in all regions”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that it is “still early days” to start talking about opening up society, and he has committed to setting out a “road map” later this month for easing restrictions.
He faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, and Downing Street has confirmed that the vaccine programme planned to reach all those aged 50 and over, as well as adults aged 16-65 in an at-risk group, by May.