Prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed most hospitality businesses in England can reopen from 4 July and has reduced the two-metre rule to ‘one-metre-plus'.
Speaking in the Commons today, Johnson said the lockdown easing could continue "given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus".
Recognising that the current two-metre social distancing guidelines prevent all but a fraction of hospitality businesses from reopening, he said that where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should, but where it is not, ‘one-metre-plus' should be observed, as well as mitigations to reduce likelihood of transmission, such as face coverings, screens between tables, improving ventilation and hand sanitiser.
Having closed in March, restaurants and pubs will be able to reopen from the anticipated 4 July date, but will be limited to table service. Guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact, and businesses will be required to collect contact details from customers.
From 4 July, provided that no more than two households stay together, people in England will also be free to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, including hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites.
However, 'close proximity' businesses, such as nightclubs, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas, will need to remain closed for now.
The prime minister confirmed that guidelines for every sector that is reopening will be published, expected later today.
He said: "There's a massive opportunity now for our pubs to think of ways to make their business Covid Secure… And to use their ingenuity to open up in all ways they can."
Jonathan Downey, founder of Hospitality Union, told The Caterer: "Good to finally hear this news but we have yet to see the detail and how much of the guidance is ‘where possible', for example on taking names and contact details for all guests.
"10 days' notice to reopening is a practical impossibility for many and, with one-metre distancing, economically unviable for most. But we will crack on and this is a start. If the first few weeks go well, I'm sure there will be further relaxation, and I look forward to our nightclubs, music venues and leisure spaces opening at full capacity soon."
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the date confirmation and reduction of two-metre distancing were both helpful for businesses. However, she added that continued government support will remain crucial.
She said: "Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills. We need financial help from the government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again."
Harry Murray, chairman of Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, tweeted: "At last we have lift-off. Now we can focus on plans, training, bookings and welcoming guests."
Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal tweeted: "Well done Boris Johnson", while Simon Cotton, managing director of HRH hotel group, said: "Great news from Boris Johnson, which sees one-meter rule introduced and hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs all able to open next Saturday. The Fat Badger Pub will be open and ready to see you."
However, businesses asked for further clarity around events. The prime minister confirmed that weddings for parties of up to 30 will be able to take place with social distancing, but further detail is yet to be provided.
Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), also said that while it was "fantastic news" pubs would be able to reopen, recording customer details to help testing and tracing "seems to be above and beyond what is being asked of other types of businesses. The government need to make sure that this doesn't disadvantage pubs and that the privacy of pubgoers is properly protected".
Thomas Dubaere, chief operating officer of Accor North Europe said: "We wholeheartedly welcome today's announcement from the Government... We will carry out a phased opening of our hotels beginning from 4 July with the economy/midscale brands and expect the majority of our UK hotels to be open by October. The decision to move to one metre plus enables us to operate many more of our kitchens and so we will be able to reopen food and beverage services more widely, which is vital to both the success of a hotel and the guest experience.
"Our existing protocols enable us to cordon off rooms for 72 hours if required. One measure we are taking in any case is keeping items such as tea and coffee sachets in plastic wallets whether used or not will be quarantined for 72 hours after a guest departs."
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said the confirmation was a "huge relief" and that reducing social distancing from two metres to one "will also ensure that many more businesses will be able to viably reopen at the start of next month".
He said: "Although these measures are very much to be welcomed, government needs to recognise that while some businesses will hopefully be able to re-coup a small proportion of their losses over the much shorter summer season, many businesses, especially those that rely wholly or mostly on inbound tourism, will have gone through the equivalent of ‘three winters' and will need further financial support if they are to survive and continue to drive jobs and growth across the UK."
Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford Collection, said: "Good. Next remove the quarantine as we won't have anyone to serve on 4 July in London's finest hotels and restaurants – 85% of our business come on an aeroplane."
John Whitehouse, chair of FEA, said: "This is welcome news for the foodservice industry. It's a ray of light after a very grim period. The decision underlines the importance of effective collaboration – the trade associations and other bodies who represent the industry have been lobbying the government together, and the strength and passion of their argument have been heard.
"Getting the hospitality industry moving is critical to everyone, none more so than the foodservice equipment supply chain, where sales have dropped by 80% or more. Of course, it's not over. We still need government support if we are to have a successful industry – and an effective supply chain – at the end of the crisis. "
Hotels, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés in Northern Ireland will be able to reopen from 3 July. Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has issued the tourism industry with a three-week reopening notice for the week beginning 13 July, providing conditions allow, while no official date has been confirmed for Scottish hospitality.
Photo: Flickr – number10gov