Hospitality sector chiefs last night insisted they are ready to welcome back customers for alfresco dining.
Ahead of Boris Johnson’s speech tomorrow setting out a roadmap for reopening, leading restaurateurs, pub owners and chefs said they have spent months preparing to serve customers outdoors.
But while they are demanding to be allowed back in business before Easter, No 10 is set to announce – as revealed in today’s Mail on Sunday – that reopening will be put off until mid-April.
The pubs aren’t open yet, but thirsty shoppers are already thronging to London’s famous Borough Market. Hospitality sector chiefs last night insisted they are ready to welcome back customers for alfresco dining
The delay is to give enough time for a study into the effect of the return to school on the R number.
Industry body UK Hospitality, which estimates the sector lost £72 billion in revenue last year and more than one million jobs, last week presented the Government with a ten-point plan to re-open the industry from April 1.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘There is no valid reason for hospitality to be at the back of the queue as data shows hospitality venues are very low risk due to the exceptional investment that businesses have made in creating safe and Covid-secure environments.’
Shoppers are back at London’s famous Borough Market
The pubs aren’t open yet, but thirsty shoppers (above) are already thronging to London’s famous Borough Market.
The crowds enjoyed a relatively balmy 15C yesterday afternoon as they browsed market stalls and collected takeaway drinks from some of the capital’s most historic bars.
The lockdown-weary shoppers took full advantage of yesterday’s sunshine, and the nation’s publicans will be hoping for an even bigger turnout when they’re finally allowed to open their doors again.
Model-turned-publican Jodie Kidd, who runs The Half Moon in Kirdford, West Sussex, has spent months preparing to reopen.
She has put up a 22-seater marquee filled with olive trees festooned with lights. She said: ‘We are Covid-safe, we have accommodated all the restrictions, we are good to go.
‘Now we need a date and guidance for when and how we can re-open – we need time to prepare.’
Chef Jack Stein has spent winter deep-cleaning the Cornish Arms in Cornwall’s St Merryn, a pub he owns with his famous father Rick.
‘We’ve given the pub a lick of paint, we’ve just bought a marquee, we’re doing everything we can to maximise our outdoor space,’ he said. ‘We’re raring to go.’
Des Gunewardena, chief executive of the D&D London group that includes former Conran restaurants Bluebird, Quaglino’s and Le Pont de la Tour, said he is planning a re-opening campaign to give his restaurants’ terraces and rooftop courtyards a new look.
Each will be given the theme of a popular holiday destination – with trees, floral displays, live music, cocktail trolleys and alfresco barbecues – to cheer up customers who cannot travel abroad.
‘It’s like the end of the war – it’s a new start and we will re-open with enthusiasm to look forward. There is a huge demand by customers to get out socialising again,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the owner of a Suffolk-based teepee company said she had seen a spike in interest from pubs and restaurants looking to spruce up outdoor seating.
Jenna Ackerley, of Events Under Canvas, said she normally rents out her 24 teepees to around 180 weddings each year but her income now relies entirely on the hospitality industry.
Pub bosses have been left furious in recent months over the Government’s handling of policies such as the 10pm curfew. Last week, the chief executives of Fuller’s, Young’s, Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers said they would no longer attend weekly calls with Business Minister Paul Scully. They said the calls had become a ‘tick box exercise’ and they were treated with ‘an obvious lack of interest and respect’.
Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of the Young’s pub chain, urged the Government to open pubs by the Easter weekend ‘to allow families and friends to enjoy the start of spring’.
At the very minimum, Mr Dardis said, his group’s 300 pubs should be allowed to open at the end of April with the Rule of Six outdoors and two households allowed to mix indoors. He added outdoor-only trading would be ‘impossible to operate’ for his group.
Oakman Inns, which has 28 pubs across the Home Counties, all with large gardens, has already invested around £1.4 million in outside tented spaces and glass dining pods.
Chief executive Dermot King said he would back testing customers on entry to his pubs, and potentially scanning vaccination certificates if it meant restrictions such as the Rule of Six could be scrapped.
Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of the Young’s pub chain, urged the Government to open pubs by the Easter weekend ‘to allow families and friends to enjoy the start of spring’
This post was first published on DailyMail.