Pub boss says non-essential shops opening first would be 'an insult'
- Credit: Archant
Pub bosses in Suffolk have pleaded for the Government to "trust them" to reopen in a safe and Covid-secure way, adding there is no evidence to suggest they should not welcome customers inside when non-essential shops can.
After schools, it is expected the next areas of lockdown easing will be non-essential shops and the rules on outdoor recreation and socialising.
Reports have suggested various reopening dates for hospitality, with optimistic suggestions varying from Easter weekend to May, with the caveat that the initial reopening may be for outdoors rather than indoors.
However, pub bosses in Suffolk have said that just opening outdoors is "not viable" and they have pleaded with the Government to trust that they can reopen indoors safely.
Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, said it would be an insult to the hospitality industry if it is not allowed to reopen fully in April, while non-essential shops are free to open their doors.
"Garden service only is unlikely to work in April due to the weather and businesses won't be viable if they just open with outside space," said Mr Wood.
"We created Covid-secure environments last year and we should be trusted to do this again. It's almost an insult to the hospitality industry if non-essential shops can reopen but we can't."
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Mr Wood said a large number of Adnams pubs do not have gardens and will be forced to stay shut if this is the case come April.
His comments come after The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, revealed that 60% of all UK pubs will still remain closed if outdoor service is permitted from April.
The trade association said this is because the majority of pubs do not have a big enough garden or outdoor space to reopen and serve customers without opening indoors too.
It says around 75% of UK pubs have a beer garden or outdoor space, but that only 40% of pubs are likely to have one big enough.
Even then, if many with big enough outdoor spaces did open, they could still struggle to break even as they would still have vastly reduced capacity and significant practical challenges such as the April weather to deal with.
It is this uncertainty which would lead many pub bosses, such as Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig, to choose not to reopen with only outdoor service.
He said: "Sadly, this shows that the Government fails to understand business and hospitality.
"To open outside only, and with the question mark on serving alcohol, the economics just do not stack up.
"My view is that it would be better to open at a later date rather than this mismatch of rules which just ruin pubs."
Mr Padfield said the "stop-start" has been very frustrating to deal with over the last year, and it is this changing of rules and uncertainty which ends up costing businesses lots of money.
Many have invested thousands of pounds to ensure pubs are the safest places to be, and he described the hospitality industry as being in the "super league of safety compared to supermarkets".
He said it is vital the Government provides more clarity and gives them enough time to prepare for when they are allowed to reopen.
Meanwhile, Nick Mackenzie, CEO at Greene King, said: “2020 was a write-off for pubs and the industry needs a clear plan for reopening as soon as it is safe to do so, without complex and unjustified restrictions which would make it unviable to open.
"We are grateful for the financial support the Government has given the sector so far and this has really helped to protect jobs and stave off pub closures, but we urgently need confirmation on additional support given the long-term restrictions that have been placed on our sector.
“Pubs are the heartbeat of their communities and can play a really important role as we emerge from this pandemic, creating significant numbers of jobs and reconnecting people to help tackle social isolation that has affected so many people over the last year.
"But without publicans having clarity on reopening and additional support, there is a real risk of more viable businesses closing their doors in the weeks and months ahead.”