Pubs: Rumours of booze-less reopenings spark worry

Rumours that Brighton pubs may be able to open in April but not serve alcohol have sparked worry and condemnation in the industry.

Whispers from Westminster are hinting that pubs and restaurants will be able to open from April, as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

The “reopening but only in name” has rightfully been slammed by all corners of the pub trade, with many operators still reeling from the last batch of ill-conceived, draconian restrictions around substantial meals.

The Telegraph reports that the “temporary booze ban” is being considered as part of the government’s reopening road map, which is to be formally announced on 22 February.

Pubs, bars and clubs have been remorselessly attacked by government regulation all through the Covid-19 pandemic, and the latest suggestion would be a financial one-two that many operators may not recover from.

Allowing the “opening” of pubs would enable the government to withdraw the paltry support measures offered when premises have been forced to shut, whilst completely eviscerating any chance of real income.

To date there has been no compelling evidence provided that hospitality has been a key driver in Covid transmissions, with high street shops, offices, public transport and educational settings all accounting for vastly higher spread rates.

Yet, for reasons formally unbeknownst (but one can quite accurately predict) the incumbent Tory government appears determined to destroy any institution linked to alcohol.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls commented

“Reopening in name only inflicts irreparable damage on hospitality as we saw Oct-Dec with restrictions with little meaningful impact on health or harm pushing revenues as low as 20-30%. Unsustainable for restaurants and pubs.”

There are reports that many inside the government fear a repeat of the “chaotic scenes” that apparently occurred with the reopening of pubs last summer, going as far as to call alcohol “the elephant in the room”. It is worth noting that A. This is the government that sought to keep the Parliament bar open during lockdown, and B. This is the government that paid people to go to restaurants, claimed on the front pages that drinking a pint was a civic duty, and told the nation to travel willy nilly all throughout the pandemic.

Addressing the Telegraph report, James Calder, chief exec of the Society of Independent Brewers commented plainly: 

“Some thoughts. No evidence of chaotic scenes. All evidence points towards hospitality being safe. No consultation with me, or other industry leaders. Alcohol not an elephant in the room.”

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