When will restaurants, pubs and bars reopen? What we know so far

Ailis Brennan
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It’s been the longest few months imaginable for the restaurants, pubs and bars forced to close during lockdown.

While many have innovated to turn their venues into grocery stores, newly offer food delivery or serve takeaway pints, none of these measures are the same as being fully open – not culturally, and certainly not financially.

Business owners, employees and customers are all keen to know when the nation’s food and drink venues will be able to reopen, but it seems it will be one of the most difficult sectors to get back to normal.

To help you keep up with the latest advice, guidelines and timelines being on the matter, we will be tracking all the comments made by prime minister Boris Johnson and other key government members, along with everything we know so far about life after lockdown in the hospitality world.

We will be keeping this page updated with any further insights and updates given by the government, so please do keep checking this article for the latest news on when we can expect restaurants, pubs and bars to be able to welcome customers again.

May 28 – Environment Secretary says pubs with beer gardens likely to open first

Environment secretary George Eustice has said that outdoor areas and pubs with beer gardens will be the first sites permitted to reopen.

Appearing on Sky News, Eustice emphasised how the hospitality sector was one of those that had “the greatest challenge getting back to work”, and said “we won’t be loosening the restrictions on them until at least July, and even then it is likely that in the case of pubs and restaurants it will begin with beer gardens and outdoor areas only.”

The comments follow the government’s positive response the previous week to The UK Grand Outdoor Summer Cafe campaign, which asked it to consider relaxing restrictions to allow restaurants and bars to offer more al fresco dining in pavements and squares outside its premises.

The UK’s Grand Outdoor Summer Café said that local government minister Robert Jenrick was “now considering a ‘blanket’ permission for restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars to use pedestrianised streets for tables and chairs.”

May 27 – Boris Johnson says he is ‘optimistic’ venues could reopen early

Boris Johnson told MPs that he was “optimistic” hospitality businesses could reopen “faster than previously thought”.

Speaking to the Commons cross-party liaison committee, the prime minister said “it is really difficult to bring forward hospitality measures in a way that involves social distancing.

“But I am much more optimistic about that than I was. We may be able to do things faster than I previously thought.”

It was not clear if Johnson was referring to venues opening earlier than July 4.

In the same meeting, Johnson also addressed whether the two-metre distancing rule could be reduced in order to help hospitality businesses to reopen.

"My own hope is that as we make progress in getting the virus down, in reducing the incidence, that we will be able to reduce that distance, which I think will be particularly valuable in transport and clearly the hospitality sector," said Johnson.

He also confirmed that he had asked the Government’s scientific advisers to look into the current guidance.

A poll of 400 hospitality leaders published earlier this month showed that 40 per cent believed their businesses would be viable with a one-metre social distancing rule.

May 11 – Dominic Raab gives a date of July 4 ‘at the very earliest’

On the morning following the prime minister’s address, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that July 4 would be the “very earliest” date that hospitality businesses would be permitted to reopen.

Speaking to Sky News, Raab said "From 4 July, at the earliest, we'll look at other sectors and that will include hospitality, but it will also include personal care and people like hairdressers."

May 10 – Boris Johnson says restaurants and pubs could begin to reopen in July

In his televised address detailing the conditional easing of lockdown measures, prime minister Boris Johnson said the reopening of hospitality venues would happen in the third – and final – phase of the government’s plan.

Johnson said that “step three” would happen “at the earliest by July – and subject to all these conditions and further scientific advice, if and only if the numbers support it – we will hope to reopen at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.”

In the written guidance provided on lockdown easing, it was emphasised that the proposed date did not apply to all locations, saying that “some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely [from early July], or may be able to open safely only in part.”