Indoor hospitality reopening in England brings 'huge sense of relief'

10 May 2021 by
Indoor hospitality reopening in England brings 'huge sense of relief'

Hospitality businesses in England can reopen for customers indoors on 17 May, the prime minister has confirmed.

Boris Johnson said the four tests of lockdown easing had been met and thanked "pubs [and] restaurants who have been waiting to welcome customers back through their doors".

It means the hospitality industry will no longer face a battle with the weather and can serve guests inside, although they will be limited to table service and social distancing rules will apply.

All hotels, hostels and B&Bs will also be able to open, rather than just those offering self-contained accommodation, as well as conference centres.

People can meet inside in a group of six or maximum of two households, while groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors or attend weddings and receptions.

"This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident that we will be able to go further," said Johnson.

He added that England remains "on track" for a further lifting of restrictions on 21 June, and will reveal later this month what the role could be for ‘vaccine passports' to help with unlocking.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the announcement was a "much welcome" next step but warned hospitality was facing its 14th month of disrupted trading.

"There is a huge sense of relief within the sector, in particular for the six in 10 venues that were not able to reopen over recent weeks due to a lack of outdoor space," said Nicholls.

"However, with significant restrictions still in place, this is a psychological opening rather than an economic one, with the profitability of the sector still a huge issue. This is why sticking to the roadmap and the removal of all restrictions by 21 June is absolutely crucial.

"Hospitality, as it emerges from restrictions, is still in a fragile state and continued government support will be critical to ensuring the sector is rejuvenated and plays a full role in the wider economic recovery."

Sally Beck, general manager of the Royal Lancaster London, said she was "totally delighted" the hotel could finally fully open.

"It is long overdue. We have stayed open since August for essential travel and medical stays but feel that as a hotel we should have been able to open fully on 12 April with retail, but at last we are able to do so now so great news," said Beck.

"The social distancing is still a challenge for our restaurants to turn a profit but our bookings are looking good and we are excited to continue our recovery."

Nick Antona, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said pubs "aren't out of the woods yet".

"Distancing and table service-only restrictions will still mean many pubs can't operate at full capacity with many continuing to struggle to make ends meet as a result," he said.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), added: "This is another important step on the road to freedom and the recovery of our sector. We know Brits cannot wait to get back inside a warm pub.

"However, inside opening with restrictions is still not enough to secure the survival of pubs. We need them to be fully reopened without any restrictions at all from 21 June to survive and trade viably."

Indoor entertainment venues will also be able to reopen from 17 May and some larger theatre, music and sporting events will be able to resume inside with a capacity of 1,000 people or while half-full.

Outdoor venues can welcome up to 4,000 people or up to half of their capacity, if it is the lower number.

International travel is also set to resume on 17 May with a ‘green list' of 12 countries that will form travel corridors with England, meaning returning passengers will not have to quarantine.

The provisional date for the final stage of lockdown lifting is 21 June, after which the government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact. If this goes ahead, venues such as nightclubs will be able to reopen for the first time in over a year and restrictions on large events will ease.

It expected to be confirmed whether Welsh hospitality can reopen on 17 May during the next review on 13 May, though business owners have said they are ‘desperate' for clarity on any rules that will be in place.

Scottish hospitality is already open indoors with tight restrictions, which will also be reviewed before 17 May.

The Northern Ireland Executive has set 24 May as its indicative date for indoor hospitality reopening.

Photo: Flickr - Number10gov

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