Leisure and hospitality industry reacts to re-opening plans

23 June, 2020

On Tuesday afternoon (the 23rd of June) the prime minister; Boris Johnson, announced in the house of commons a number of measures to ease the country out of lockdown:

From the 4th of July the indoor hospitality sector will be permitted to reopen in the following areas: hotels, restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, theme parks, social clubs and community centres provided the following safety measures are undertaken

  • Table service to be provided
  • Hand sanitisers
  • Implementation of effective shift patterns
  • Steps taken to minimise staff and customer contact
  • Venues are being asked to aid with ‘track and trace’ measures by keeping records of customers contact information should any positive cases be reported (more details to be released)
  • Shared facilities are to be regularly cleaned such as bathrooms
  • 2-metre social distancing rule is still in place but venues and members of the public are now able to socialise at a distance of 1 metre where 2 metres isn’t possible.

Boris Johnson advised that venues should exploit any available outdoor space using their ingenuity to open their businesses in every possible way. He also stated that the virus is still present in the country and that people should remember that despite the hospitality industry re-opening that “the fewer social contacts people have, the safer they will be.”

The term ‘1 Metre plus’ has been introduced to explain the new social distancing measures in place in the country. This term and new measure has been welcomed across the board by the hospitality sector who had called for the 2 metre rule to be reviewed in order to help businesses survive across the country.

Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of Hospitality stated the following:

“The Government has given due recognition to how hard hospitality has been hit by this crisis. Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen. Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secure businesses and jobs.”

“Reducing the minimum distance will be a huge help to hospitality. The two-metre rule would have capped capacity for most venues at around 30%. That would have been totally unviable for most businesses and would have risked even more jobs and the futures of venues. Reduction to one-metre should see most venues able to trade at around 70% capacity, which could be the difference between failure and staying alive to see out the remainder of the crisis, particularly with added support.”

The hospitality industry is estimated to be the UK’s third largest employer with a report in 2018 citing that it employed 3.2 million individuals.

The industry has not been shy previously in pressing the government for more guidance and measures repeatedly calling on them to review the 2 metre social distancing policy as they estimated only 70-80% of venues would be able to confidently reopen should the measures have still be in

place. The British Beer and Pub Association predicted an even bleaker outlook of just one in five pubs being able to restart if the 2-metre social distancing policy had been upheld.

UKHospitality launched the #Fair4Hospitality campaign sending a 75 page document to ministers with a list of suggested measures businesses could undertake to minimise any risk of Covid-19 in their business.

The news from the briefing has been well received by our members:

James Almond, co-owner of Almond Family Pubs in Stockport has said, “I welcome the government’s reduction in social distancing measures to 1 metre as now I feel reassured that our staff can work safely in all of our businesses as we adapt our front and back of house service practise moving forward.”

Graeme Fulton from the Fulton Partnership, a group of 4 independent steakhouse pubs and restaurants across Nottingham, Staffordshire and Derbyshire said; “It’s great news and exactly what we needed to hear. It’s full steam ahead now with finalising our plans for reopening. Hopefully the guidelines will be clear and enable us to reopen with not too many disruptions.”

The new ‘1 Metre plus’ policy has been made in line with the World Health Organisations (WHO) guidelines stating that keeping just one metre apart from each other slashes the risk of coronavirus transfer by 80% and brings our country in line with France and Italy who both have a 1 meter social distancing policy.

Alex Demetriou, our Managing Director, has joined in with those voicing their relief at Tuesday’s briefing:

“The Government have responded to calls for information from the hospitality industry with a clear and concise plan for re-opening certain venues. Our advice to any of our members able to re-open on the 4th of July would be to place your orders with suppliers now before any shortages occur. We would also advise that all equipment is tested as soon as possible with any problems logged with the relevant technical support team as it is expected the closer we get to opening the more of a backlog will be created. Many Regency members we have spoken to are all very relieved to see a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel, but they know there is still plenty to do.”

In other re-opening news for the country primary, secondary and childcare settings are to re-open to all children over the coming months to help the country get back to work. As well as this restrictions on mixed households have been eased so that family members can also help with childcare where necessary.

Weddings are to take place with guests limited to 30 people observing social distancing, however this has only been announced for weddings taking place in places of worship; weddings in private locations were not discussed.

When asked whether the government would extend the furlough scheme beyond October if it was needed no direct response was given.

Unfortunately venues deemed ‘close proximity’ such as soft play, nightclubs, gyms & bowling alleys have not been given the go ahead to re-open on the 4th of July but task forces will be put in place which will be headed up by public health experts for each of these sectors to look at how they can be re-opened safely.

Gordon Forster, Managing Director of Safari Play was particular disappointed with this weeks announcement that excluded venues such as soft play: “It is clear that a phased approach is required to get us out of lockdown but BALPPA had produced a clear way of operating safely for children, parents and staff and this was clearly ignored and not communicated in advance. Not only that, but more importantly, there was not a time frame or deadline for the next review. This now creates a huge amount of uncertainty as it leaves indoor play and bowling venues in limbo.”

Covid secure guidelines have been published online and a summary of this has been sent out directly to each of our members.

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