England’s cafés, restaurants, pubs, hotels and work canteens will reopen on July 4th, the prime minister Boris Johnson announced this week.
In a further boost to the hospitality sector, the minimum social distancing measure will also be reduced from two metres to “one metre plus”.
The Labour leader Keir Starmer offered his support to the further easing of lockdown measures, but promised to “scrutinise the details”.
Decisions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be made by the devolved administrations. The Welsh health minister has criticised the speed at which the UK government is easing lockdown in England, according to the BBC.
UK Hospitality welcomed the decisions, but noted that some businesses will still struggle to open so “continued government support” is “crucial”.
The two-metre rule would have capped capacity for most venues at “around 30%”, said chief executive Kate Nicholls, but reduction to one metre should result in most venues able to trade at “around 70%” of capacity.
Consultancy CGA reckons the reduction to one metre will result in an extra 145m pints of beer being sold through the sector, compared to a two-metre rule. “As well as the difference in sales, more outlets are likely to open in July, as their businesses become viable at 70% capacity,” said CGA director of client services, Jonny Jones.
Of course, these forecasts rely on consumer confidence: polling so far suggests there is pent up demand but people remain nervous about going out to eat or drink.
The prime minister said “where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should. But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’, meaning they should remain one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.”
This is where foodservice and hospitality operators will have to balance maximising capacity with reassuring customers that the site is safe.
The government has updated its guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services that can reopen next month, which is available here. The Food Standards Agency has also produced a checklist for those set to reopen.
Seating will need to be reconfigured, new cleaning regimes implemented and adequate supplies of PPE sourced. Businesses will also be asked to help the government respond to localised outbreaks of Covid-19.
“We will ask businesses to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers, as happens in other countries, and we will work with the sector to make this manageable,” Johnson said.
“Close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas will remain closed.