Downing Street has poured cold water on reports that parts of the hospitality industry will be re-opened two weeks ahead of schedule on 22 June.
Reports in the Financial Times and The Times today said ministers were looking at re-opening the sector on 22 June for venues that can serve patrons in outdoor spaces.
However, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman today said the government was still working to its coronavirus lockdown roadmap, which states pubs and restaurants will not open before 4 July.
Some pubs and restaurants are open for limited takeaway orders, however this has not been possible for many businesses.
“We do want to be able to open pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes as soon as possible, but it must be safe to do so,” the spokesman said.
“The roadmap says the ambition is to open from 4 July and we’re following the roadmap.”
Chief executive at advocacy group UKHospitality Kate Nicholls — who is a part of the government’s taskforce on re-opening the hospitality — also told City A.M. that the 22 June date had never been discussed with her.
However, she said her lobby group had advised the government on which parts of the sector were easier to re-open, such as hotels and some cafes.
“We’ve been working toward the date of 4 July and we haven’t heard anything about an early date,” she said.
“It’s not something that has been up for discussion.”
Nicholls also said that the industry needed to have a confirmed re-opening date by this week to ensure businesses are prepared.
This was a sentiment echoed by the British Beer and Pub Association (BPPA) today.
The lobby group has said that pubs need three weeks’ notice of when they are allowed to open in order to prepare effectively.
This is to have enough time to “ensure equipment and systems are operating and cleaned to necessary standards”, according to the group.
BPPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The speculated date of 22 June gives us only two weeks to get ready, which may not be enough time – hence why we need urgent clarity and a definite date from the government.
“If pubs are going to get ready to re-open their beer gardens, then it makes sense to let all pubs be free to re-open from 4 July as the Government originally indicated in its roadmap.”
One of the largest issues for the hospitality sector in re-opening is the government’s two-metre social distancing rule.
UKHospitality and the BPPA are lobbying the government to cut it to one metre, which would be in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
Nicholls said venues could only operate at an average of 30 per cent profitability with the two-metre rule in place.
“Many businesses in the sector are not viable with the two-metre rule,” she said.
Boris Johnson told Westminster’s Liaison Committee two weeks ago that the government would be guided by advice from the The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in regards to the two-metre rule.