Al fresco April opening for pubs and restaurants "not commercially viable"

By Restaurant

- Last updated on GMT

Plans to open pubs and restaurants for outside only in April have been slammed as "not commercially viable"

Related tags Pubs lockdown

Potential plans by the Government to allow only outdoor drinking and dining from April have been slammed by the pub sector.

Pub companies and trade groups have described the move, which was mooted in various national newspapers over the weekend (Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February), as being commercially unviable, with many taking to social media to voice their frustration about the impact this will have on the industry.

“Let's be absolutely clear - pubs and restaurants open outdoors only is not economically feasible and delaying opening until May without significant additional compensation will see large numbers of business failures and job losses,” says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

The ‘leaks’ come in advance of Boris Johnson’s announcement on 22 February on his roadmap to reopening from lockdown, which is expected to give non-essential retail preference over hospitality.

Even if pubs were allowed to open for al fresco business only, some 60% of the sector would have to remain closed, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

It says that 29,000 pubs in the UK will remain closed because they do not have a big enough garden or outdoor space to re-open and serve customers without opening indoors too.   

While around 75% of UK pubs have a beer garden or outdoor space, only 40% of pubs are likely to have a beer garden or outdoor space big enough, according to the BBPA. 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.

“Let us be clear, outdoor service at pubs is not the same as properly opening pubs both inside and outside and is not commercially viable,” says BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.

“If pubs do open outdoors only in April – we believe just 17% of UK pub capacity will actually open. This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering. 

“Even if some pubs did try and open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain and they would find it has all been for nothing.  

“For many pubs, gardens are at the back and the only way to access them is through the inside. And of course, toilet facilities would still need to be provided.  

“We question the Government’s thinking behind this and suggest they consult with us as a sector on it. 

The BBPA is urging the Government to open pubs fully when non-essential retail also opens saying that by then the vaccine will have been rolled out to enough people.

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