A group of ministers, dubbed the ‘Save Summer Six’, are working to reopen UK pubs ahead of schedule in a bid to save 3.5 million jobs in the hospitality sector.
The group, which is said to include Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is believed to be investigating ways to help venues reopen by 22 June, using beer gardens, terraces, marquees and other similar outdoor areas, according to the Financial Times.
Outlets were preparing to start serving customers outdoors from 4 July at the earliest, under Government’s plans to ease lockdown, but 22 June is now being considered by ministers backing a “save summer” move.
The Cabinet is expected to discuss the issue further on Tuesday, along with possibly relaxing the two-metre social distancing rule, with an announcement to follow later this week.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We’ve always wanted to reopen our nations pubs safely and viably as soon as possible, but we urgently need a clear decision on whether we can reopen pub beer gardens early.
“We also seek urgent confirmation from the Government on a definitive date when pub beer gardens will be able to open.
“Regardless of whether pub beer gardens can reopen earlier, it is imperative the Government enables ALL pubs to be free to reopen from July 4, as indicated in its roadmap.
“Our industry needs confirmed and definitive dates so we can get pubs ready for reopening. That includes getting safety measures in place and restocking with fresh draught beer ready to be served inside and outside of our wonderful local pubs.
“This requires a minimum of three weeks, but ideally four weeks is needed. The speculated date of 22 June gives us only two weeks to get ready, which may not be enough time – hence why we need urgent clarity and a definite date from the Government.
“If pubs are going to get ready to reopen their beer gardens, then it makes sense to let ALL pubs be free to reopen from July 4, as the Government originally indicated in its roadmap.”
Carmen Bryan, consumer analyst at GlobalData, said: “Reopening pub gardens by 22 June is a risky move. While it is no secret that the British pub is in dire need of a saving grace, rushing to reopen the sector could lead to another spike in infections, and prolong the closure of these and other vital businesses further.
“Should the sector reopen as planned, the seasonal weather and restlessness from consumers will drive immediate sales, but for long-term sustainability, operators must understand consumers concerns and design creative and safe solutions that comply with current social distancing measures.”