Restaurant and pub bosses have cautiously welcomed confirmation tonight that the UK’s May 17 partial reopening is still on.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the business world will have to wait a little longer for more news on the rules for working from home and on vaccine certification.
At a Downing Street press conference tonight , the PM confirmed venues including pubs, restaurants and bars would be able to open indoor areas from Monday May 17 in line with the original lockdown roadmap.
Groups of up to six people, or two households, will be able to gather inside venues in the third road map phase from next Monday. Customers will be required to order, eat and drink while seated with table service, although there will be no curfew or “substantial meal” rules.
Restrictions are set to be relaxed completely from June 21.
However, industry leaders have warned that hospitality firms will continue to have “precarious” finances until that June reopening.
The PM was asked if working from home guidance would change on June 21 or whether WFH would remain the norm into next year.
He said: “We’re going to wait and give you more detail and more guidance about exactly what we mean by the end of social distancing later this month.
“I’m optimistic that things will get back much closer to normality, let me put it like that, but clearly people are going to want to exercise their own judgement and their own discretion for a long while to come.
“You’ll hear a lot more by the end of this month about exactly what the world after June 21 is going to look like. At the moment I’m feeling very positive about it, but we’ve got to be guided by the data.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality, said: “This is a much welcome and vitally important next step, as we continue along the road map to remove restrictions.
“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.
“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 road map and the removal of all restrictions by June 21 is absolutely crucial, enabling venues to finally operate in viable conditions, after 14 months of severely disrupted trading.”
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News agency PA reported that according to the real estate adviser Altus Group, 99,045 indoor hospitality premises in England will be able to reopen on May 17 as a result of changes to restrictions.
Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of pub chain Greene King, said: “It’s great that from next Monday we’ll be able to welcome our customers back inside our pubs and get more of our team members back to work.
“Since we reopened outdoors in some of our pubs in April, frequent spells of cold and wet weather have made it particularly trying for our teams who are serving our customers outside.
“Even though the vast majority of our of our pubs will be open next week, we’ll still be operating at significantly reduced capacity, so it’s essential all restrictions disappear as promised on June 21 so we can return to the full pub experience that people have missed so much.”
Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said: “While I welcome today’s announcement, we need to remember that hospitality operators across the country are not yet out of the woods.
“Many will be reopening for the first time this year, and all will be in financially precarious positions that will affect them for years to come.
“Although they will be allowed to reopen from next week, operators will continue to make a loss while measures such as social distancing, capacity limits and table service are still in place.”
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of pub group Young’s, said: “Young’s accepts the cautious approach the Prime Minister has been taking.
“All of us hope that this means that we can safely and sensibly get to the end of the road, when relaxation of restrictions are indeed irreversible.
“It has been a brutal 14 months for a sector that employs millions of people and contributes billions of pounds to the Treasury in normal times.”