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Pubs light up their gardens as they reopen to floods of bookings

Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent
·4 min read

A pint at the pub is finally becoming a reality again in England as venues with outdoor seating reopen their doors for the first time since the beginning of January.

Pub owners have said Britons are “desperate” to have drinks with their friends again, reporting they have been flooded with bookings in the weeks since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his timetable for the reopening of hospitality.

The road map allows for pubs, restaurants and bars to reopen outdoor areas from April 12, with customers welcome inside again from May 17.

The British Beer & Pub Association wrote on Twitter: “Great news that pubs can reopen outdoors from April 12. That first pint back at the pub is going to be special. We expect 40% of pubs – 15,000 – to open. But we continue to have deep concerns over the Governments proposals around vaccine passports.”

Half of Britons plan to make a dash for the pub or a restaurant when the rules ease, a recent poll by investment bank Jefferies found.

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The tentative step back to normality will be tempered with the practicalities of living with Covid. Last summer, one member of each group needed to sign in on entry but this time around venues have to record the details of every customer who enters the premises.

This can be done either via the NHS Covid-19 app or in person by giving a member of staff the contact details.

Customers must also follow either the rule of six or be in a group of any size as long as there are no more than two households present.

When people are not seated – for example, when they’re being shown to a table or going to the toilet – they must wear face masks, follow one-way systems and observe social distancing.

A group of women drinking white wine outside a bar
Customers will have to stick to the rule of six or be in groups of no more than two households (John Stillwell/PA)

Some restrictions have eased since pubs were last open. Customers will not need to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and there will be no 10pm curfew.

Restaurateurs say that during the pandemic it is more important than ever that people let establishments know if they are not going to turn up. Many have put in place deposit requirements on booking in an attempt to dissuade no-shows.

Henry Cripps, from the Three Oaks pub in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, said: “We have taken lots of bookings and are so excited to open – it’s been so long.

“We realise that almost everything for the next five weeks is weather dependent so we have everything crossed for sun. Although we are busy with bookings we hope that with inclement weather we will still have some bookings when it’s wet, windy and cold.

“It was touch and go whether it was viable to open. We couldn’t wait to see our regulars, so we have invested heavily in our garden.”

The hospitality sector has been one of the worst-hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with millions of staff on furlough and having been closed for a considerable amount of the past 12 months.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said that whilst the reopening was exciting for publicans and pubgoers alike, it was important to remember that just 40% of pubs in England – 15,000 – would be opening for outdoor service from Monday.

The BBPA anticipates they will sell 15 million pints in the week from April 12 to Sunday, and compared the figure to the 85 million sold across a normal Easter bank holiday weekend.

Those opening on April 12 will almost certainly be making a loss but are desperate to welcome back their customers and serve their local communities, it said.

The trade association, alongside other industry bodies, has stated its concerns and frustration over the Government’s handling of the reopening of pubs.

In particular, they are concerned over suggestions of vaccine passports for entry to premises, as well as changes to guidelines on how pubs operate including not being able to pay at the bar.

BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “That first pint back in the beer garden is going to be a special moment. People across the country have been looking forward to it for months.

“We expect 40% of pubs, some 15,000 in England, to reopen from April 12. Those that do open have invested a lot in ensuring customers are both comfortable and safe, making the most of the pub beer garden. But we should remember that those opening will be loss making with the ability to trade beyond break even coming with the removal of all restrictions.

“With so many pubs still not opening though, it’s crucial the Government sticks to its road map and allows pubs to reopen indoors from May 17 and without any restrictions at all from June 21. That is the only way our pubs can trade viably and begin to fully recover.”