Government ministers are now reportedly targeting June 22 as the date they hope to reopen England’s pubs and restaurants for outdoor service, as fears continue to mount that more than three million jobs could be lost this summer if the sector remains locked down.
While there is currently no official date set for when pubs and restaurants across the country will be able to reopen, Government guidance published last month suggested that some hospitality businesses could be allowed to reopen in early July.
However, according to the Financial Times, a group of ministers that includes Chancellor Rishi Sunak are understood to have been looking at ways to help pubs and restaurants reopen earlier using beer gardens, terraces and marquees.
The revised reopening plans will reportedly be discussed by the Cabinet on Tuesday, with the Chancellor said to be in favour of a full reopening of pubs and restaurants before 4 July.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to have asked Business Secretary Alok Sharma to make the case for cutting the UK’s social distancing rule from two metres to just one.
Voices from across the industry have spoken out in recent weeks about the need for the contact gap to be reduced, with the British Institute of Innkeeping telling the BBC over the weekend that a quarter of pubs wouldn't be able to open in any capacity with two-metre distancing in place.
It added that, of those who could open, only 2% would expect to make a profit.
There have also been further indications that the rules for al fresco dining could be shaken up, with Housing and Local Government Minister Robert Jenrick understood to be reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas.
At present, cafés and restaurants wanting to put out pavement tables and chairs currently need an ‘outdoor seating licence’ from their local authority, which can take weeks to approve.
However, some reports suggest the Government is looking to slash approval times, and is also considering axing the fee, which can be as much as £500 a year.