Confirmed: Bars can reopen in England on 4 July
Bars and pubs in England have been given the green light to welcome customers back through their doors on 4 July provided they follow the required safety guidelines – including a one-metre distancing rule.
In an update on lockdown measures delivered to the House of Commons today (23 June), UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed hospitality businesses could reopen a week on Saturday, but venues would be limited to table service. It is the confirmation the on-trade has been urgently asking for over the last few weeks.
However, close-proximity venues, such as nightclubs, will remain closed until further notice.
The government is advising on-trade venues to encourage minimal staff and customer contact when they reopen. All venues will also be asked to collect contact details from customers – “as happens in other countries”, Johnson said – in order to effectively use ‘track and trace’ should any confirmed Covid-19 cases arise among customers or staff.
The government said it will work with the hospitality industry to make this manageable for venues.
In his speech, Johnson outlined how Covid-19 cases have fallen across the country, meaning lockdown rules can be relaxed further – most notably a reduction of the two-metre rule to one-metre-plus.
“We can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England,” said Johnson. “At every stage, caution will remain our watch word. Each step will be conditional and reversible.”
Johnson explained that in the first half of May this year, almost 69,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK. By the first half of June, this number had fallen by nearly 70% to under 22,000. The number of new infections is also decreasing by around 2-4% each day, he added.
Four weeks ago, an average of one in 400 people in England had Covid-19, the prime minister said, but this had dropped to one in 1,700 by the first half of June.
He also said: “We do not believe there is currently a risk of a second wave of infections that might overwhelm the NHS,” and that the nation continues to meet the five tests used to assess which stage of lockdown is most appropriate for the current situation. As such, the country’s alert level fell from four to three last week.
Despite these changes, citizens are advised to stick to a distance of more than one metre where possible. People will be asked to follow guidance rather than legislation from 4 July.
The hospitality industry in the UK has been closed since 20 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
UK Hospitality welcomes confirmation – but warns financial help still needed
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, welcomed the government’s confirmation as it will allow venues to make the necessary preparations to reopen.
She added that the trade body is still waiting for guidance to be published by the government, but added UK Hospitality has been working hard to make sure businesses are well-equipped with its own reopening guidelines.
Nicholls added: “The government has given due recognition to how hard hospitality has been hit by this crisis. Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen. Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secure businesses and jobs.
“We know that many people will be keen to get out and support their local pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, and to return to leisure and holiday pursuits.
“While many venues will endeavour to reopen on 4th July, capacities will be constrained by social distancing and some may be unable to trade viably at all, so continued government support will remain crucial. Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills.
“We need financial help from the government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again.”