Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Pubs in England will not open until July 'at the earliest'
9 June 2020, 18:51
Pubs in England will not open until July “at the earliest” despite reports suggesting ministers were planning to reopen them two weeks early.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the original Government plan of opening beer gardens and terraces from July 4 remains - and could be optimistic.
This is despite reports that a group of six ministers, branding themselves the “Save Summer Six”, had been tasked with drawing up proposals for a 22 June reopening of pubs with social distancing.
It came amid dire warnings that the hospitality sector faces 3.5 million job cuts if the closures continue for much longer. Boris Johnson is thought to be keen to restart the stalling economy.
But the rumours, first reported by the Financial Times, were played down by both Downing Street and Mr Sharma on Tuesday.
Mr Sharma told the Downing Street press conference: “Of course, there are businesses which still remain closed. As soon as we can we will publish further safer working guidance for restaurants, pubs and bars, as well as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars and related services.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about when we might be able to reopen these parts of the economy and I completely understand why we’re all so keen to get them back up and running, and I absolutely share that enthusiasm.
“But we continue to follow the road map which set out our ambition to reopen these sectors from July 4 at the earliest.”
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman told reporters that the Government’s roadmap “sets out our ambition to reopen open pubs, bars and cafes as soon as possible, but the date in the roadmap is from 4 July, subject to advice at the time.
When they do reopen, pubs would only be able to serve customers outdoors, where the infection risk is thought to be significantly less.
But Tim Martin, founder and chairman of Wetherspoon, which has already drawn up plans for how it could operate a socially-distanced pub, warned: "Few pubs will be able to make a profit using outdoor space only."
However, he said it would be a "psychological boost to a beleaguered industry", adding: "It will signal the intent of the government to make progress towards normality."
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: "Businesses are still working towards 4 July... This gives some certainty about [the] direction of travel. Some businesses have not opened since last November, because they are seasonal. It is important to start as soon as they can."
All pubs, restaurants and cafes were forced to shut in March when the UK entered lockdown, however they have been allowed to continue operating takeaway services.
The hospitality sector has also raised alarm over the hit that the two-metre spacing rule could have on trade. Number 10 confirmed the rule is under review.
The Business Secretary confirmed at the briefing that all non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen from Monday, provided that they socially distance.