A report in The Sunday Times claims that pubs could remain shut – or under the strictest of conditions – until May at the earliest.
Current Coronavirus restrictions have taken a sledgehammer to the hospitality industry, something felt acutely here in Brighton and Hove, and the latest Westminster murmurings offer little hope for the rapid return of pubs.
The Times reports that Number 10 is “privately gloomy” about the prospect of ending lockdown next month. The current restrictions are due for review no later than February 15, but current statistics offer little hope of this date being one of reopening.
It is claimed that March 23 – one entire year since the imposition of the first national lockdown – appears a much more likely date for the easing of lockdown measures, but pubs would reportedly not be included in this.
The early May bank holiday, Monday 3rd, is being mooted as the most practical time for hospitality to reopen – according to a confidential Number 10 source.
UKHospitality boss, Kate Nicholls, pulled few punches in her assessment of the news.
“If pubs bars and restaurants are not able to open until May then they will have actually been closed for seven months. With one in five running out of cash by March, even with Govt support that is simply unsustainable.”
The Sunday Times will have been the first many publicans have heard of this roadmap, much to the dismay of all involved. British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin was equally unimpressed and hoped that the speculation was just that.
“We strongly believe that pubs are safe places to socialise and can play an important role in our social and economic recovery.
“If pubs are forced to stay closed until May it would mean they have faced 14 months of lockdowns and restrictions. How on earth could the Government expect them to survive?”
Addressing the lack of any real plan coming out of Westminster she added,
“The Government has a duty to tell publicans when it plans to let them reopen with a clear roadmap alongside the vaccination programme.
“If it won’t be until May then it needs to extend financial support for them to survive and to brewers whose businesses also face jeopardy.”