Whilst thousands of protestors amass in the streets with barely a peep from government, the UK’s publicans are still staring down the barrel of a two-metre distancing guideline which will prevent almost a quarter of them from opening until late summer.
One of the oldest and largest pub companies in the country has said that it will wait until August to re-open, citing the infeasibility of two metre social distancing guidelines.
Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis said last week that the company would not welcome punters back until August 3, when he expected the government to relax its stringent distancing stipulation – recently dubbed “arbitrary” by one leading government expert – to a single metre, in line with most other EU countries.
Dardis has also claimed that whilst face-masks will be “highly recommended” for bar staff at the pubco’s 276 sites, they would not be mandatory: on the basis that he wanted “pubs looking like pubs and not operating theatres.
A recent survey undertaken by members of the British Institute of Inkeepers produced concerning data which suggested that as many as a quarter of the country’s 47,000 pubs would be completely unable to open under current Covid-19 legislation. The same study – which drew on the responses from 8,500 publicans – found that a vast majority of pubs (82 per cent) will lose over half their regular income whilst forced to operate under two-metre regs.
“Many pubs will struggle to open at all, having traditional pub environments not designed for social distancing,” said BII chief executive Steve Alton of the new findings. “While a number of other pubs have been able to diversify their businesses and offer takeaways, deliveries and other services to local customers, the majority have made very little money throughout these activities but were keen to contribute to their communities during lockdown.”
The latest financial forecasts seem to bear Alton’s view out: a forward-looking statement released last week by the Revolution Bars Group – which runs 74 sites nationwide – said that even in a “best-case” scenario, the company could only hope to achieve 55 per cent of the revenue it posted last year.
Hospitality stakeholders in Scotland, meanwhile, have called upon the devolved parliament in Holyrood to make a break from Westminster’s inflexibility, and set down an early one-metre precedent already enjoyed by public-facing business in France and Germany.
“We would ask that the Scottish Government carefully evaluate and give every due consideration to agreeing to the one metre parametre for distancing, which is considered by the WHO to be a safe distance,” Marc Crothall, who heads up the Scottish Tourism Alliance, wrote in a letter to Scottish ministers which was co-signed by both BACTA, the BBPA and UKHospitality. “The reality is that the majority believe that it will not be economically viable to open at two metres and as a result many pubs will have to close until such time as their was a change to the distancing measures.”