Pubs and restaurants will be able serve people outside from April 12 but the industry fears ‘COVID-19 passports’ could keep millions of young people away for months. Tony McDonough reports
Millions of younger people could be barred from pubs and restaurants for months if plans to introduce ‘COVID passports’ for smaller venues goes ahead.
As the the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall across the UK amid the successful vaccine roll-out which has seen more than 30m get their first dose, the country’s hospitality sector is getting ready to reopen.
It is likely pubs and restaurants will be allowed to start serving people outdoors from April 12 and indoors from May 17 and all restrictions being lifted by June 21. However, media reports suggest Prime Minister Boris Johnson is warming to the idea of COVID passports for bars and restaurants.
There is also confusion around test and trace rules and whether or not outlets will be able to take payments from people indoors. And, with, full vaccination of younger adults possibly not completed until late summer, hospitality venues could have to manage without a big chunk of their customer base.
Bars and restaurants across Liverpool city region are getting reading for reopening with venues in the city centre, and in locations such as the Royal Albert Dock, well prepared to welcome customers outdoors.
However, representatives of the UK’s pub industry have to the Prime Minister to express their incredulity at what they claim is the Government’s “stealthy backsliding” on pub reopening rules.
Trade bodies UKHospitality (UKH), the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII) have stated their “outrage” by the threat of more impositions on pub businesses.
The review into Covid Status Certification, led by Michael Gove, looks likely to recommend that pubs and other hospitality venues must demand immunity proof from people, to allow them to enter – with the threat of fines for venues if non-compliant
This could prevent millions of young people visiting the pub for months, unless they get themselves tested in advance. The Government has also announced that all customers will need to sign into the pub on entry, rather than just one member of the group as was previously the case. This, the bodies say, will add more confusion and inconvenience for customers and staff.
For reopening on April 12th, for outdoor services only, Government has yet to confirm that payment at the bar will be permitted. This means that customers returning to their local may be unable to make payment in outdoor spaces. This could be an even bigger problem for rural pubs with poor connectivity.
In a joint statement, the pub representatives said: “Government has promised the country that we will be reopening but we are now being told that this will be with our hands tied behind our backs.
“Pubs will already be trading at a loss when they reopen with all the existing restrictions and covid-secure measures in place. Adding further disproportionate and discriminatory measures threatens the very survival of thousands of businesses.
“It’s unfair to single out our sector again with these added impractical burdens that will have economic consequences and risk our recovery.
“… If Government insists on restricting our ability to trade then they will need to stump up more business support. We need to see a further extension of the business rates holiday through to October and more furlough support to save the millions of jobs we support.”
A number of pubs have chosen not to open on April 12 either because of a lack of outdoor space or a worry about poor weather meaning beer would have to be wasted. The Rose & Crown pub in Bebington in Wirral, run by James Skinner and partner Isla Thompson, has said it is not planning to reopen until May 17.
On its Facebook page it said: “We will be opening the pub on May 17. This date we are allowed to open inside and outside at the same time. We’ve thought long and hard about opening the beer garden only on April 12. We’ve considered all the options available in terms of keeping it sheltered and warm but the solutions weren’t practical.”