Pubs across England are already being inundated with drinkers wanting to book beer garden space for their big April reopening, industry insiders say.
One bar in Leeds, the Water Lane Boathouse, has reported taking 700 reservations in the space of just five hours this week.
Others are said to be experiencing similar surges with the Inn Collection Group, which has 15 venues across the north, revealing it had seen a “300 per cent spike in bookings” over the last fortnight.
Pubs have been closed since January, except for take-away food and non-alcoholic drinks, as part of the government’s strategy for bringing coronavirus infection rates down.
They will reopen for outdoor service on 12 April as part of the so-called roadmap to normality. Indoor serving will be allowed from 17 May.
“There’s no doubt there’s a massive pent-up enthusiasm,” Christian Burns, owner of six pubs in Bishop Auckland, told The Independent.
“People have seen enough of their back gardens or kitchen tables and they want to get out. If the weather’s good, for those pubs with outdoor facilities it could be an astounding April.”
He will be opening two of his venues, the Merry Monk and the Reading Rooms, for al fresco drinking – a total of about 200 seats – but will not be taking bookings.
“But if I was doing, just on expressions of interest alone, I think I’d be close to capacity already,” the 62-year-old said. “The first day [of reopening] is a Monday but I think, from lunch time onwards, you’ll see gardens getting busy. There’s an appetite this time that I would say is even greater than after the first lockdown. People’s grannies have been vaccinated now – I’ve been vaccinated too, I’ll say – and they know more about staying safe. They feel happier about the whole situation. And that means they’re ready for a drink.”
Big pub chains have also reported an uplift in bookings.
A spokesperson for Fuller Smith and Turner, which runs some 400 pubs around the country, said: "People are clearly keen to get back to the pub and where we are opening our gardens and patios on 12 April, we’ve seen a high number of people pre-booking their tables.”
Yet there has also been a note of caution served with industry group UK Hospitality highlighting that more than half of such businesses won’t be able to open in April because they do not have outdoor facilities.
"Our members that can open outdoor areas have reported strong interest from customers, which is not surprising after such a long period of closure," Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the group told the BBC. “[But] April isn’t going to represent a reopening of any significance, or a reopening at all, for much of the sector.
“We need to remember that nearly 60 per cent of hospitality businesses don’t have outdoor areas and many that do only have small spaces."