Pub gardens 'could open at the end of June' as England eases out of lockdown

8 June 2020, 14:50

Pub gardens could be allowed to be open as long as social distancing is adhered to
Pub gardens could be allowed to be open as long as social distancing is adhered to. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Pubs in England could reopen again on 22 June, a fortnight earlier than planned, according to reports.

A group of six ministers led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak have reportedly been told to draw up plans for how the opening would work.

Boris Johnson previously named July 4 as the earliest date that pubs could reopen with strict social distancing, subject to the Government’s five tests, in his lockdown easing plan last month.

But the ministers, calling themselves the “save the summer six”, want to throw beer gardens open to lockdown-weary Brits this month, the Financial Times reports. The plans, which the newspaper claims were confirmed by three Whitehall officials, would require strict social distancing and apply to the 27,000 UK pubs that have outdoor space.

Trade body UK Hospitality has warned that pubs and other small businesses could struggle to make profit with the two-metre rule in place, but the PM has said it is under review.

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Staff will likely need to wear PPE
Staff will likely need to wear PPE. Picture: PA

Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said: “Few pubs will be able to make a profit using outdoor space only but partial reopening will provide a psychological boost to a beleaguered industry.

“It will signal the intent of the government to make progress towards normality, which will be welcome.”

Almost 700 of Wetherspoons’ 867 pubs have a beer garden, roof terrace or patio and the company has already laid out plans for coronavirus-style pubs, including bar staff wearing goggles and protective screens between tables.

It comes as the Government is expected to announce plans to scrap Sunday trading laws in the coming weeks in a scramble to save 3.5 million jobs at risk amid the stalling economy.

Places of worship are due to reopen from June 15, along with non-essential shops, but the hospitality sector faces an uncertain future. Robert Jenrick, housing and local government secretary, is reportedly reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas when they reopen.

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The other ministers in the “save the summer six” are said to be cabinet office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

The Cabinet is expected to be discussing pubs at tomorrow’s meeting. Industry bosses have warned that 15,000 pubs could be forced to permanently close if they are forced to wait until September to emerge from lockdown