Pub trade prepares to get back to business in Leeds amid campaigners concerns some won't survive
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Landlords have welcomed the news that as of July 4, pubs and restaurants can re-open and the two metre social distancing rule can be dropped down to one metre - but some campaigners are concerned about the lack of clarity.
The move follows intense pressure from some MPs and those within the industry who said easing the two-metre requirement is key to re-opening the hard pressed hospitality sector.
Many pubs and restaurants have warned that it would simply not be viable for them to operate as long as the rule remains in place.
Seema Dhiman, the director of Brotherhood in Leeds, said she "can't wait" to get back behind the bar after what had been a worrying three months.
She said: "I can't wait. I love our trade, I have been in it for 20 years. We are so lucky in Brotherhood, on a Saturday afternoon guests have been the same for the last five years, we normally shake hands, ask them about the sports, their bets. I can't wait to see their faces and the team are really up for it."
She said the bar has spent £12,000 on social distancing and safety measures with perspex screens on bars, hand sanitiser at front and back of house and a QR code where customers can view a menu, order and pay from their phones without having to wait at the bar. It is doing table service which it never has before too. The trade that has been lost is "heart-breaking" and she urged the city to back its independent bars, pubs and restaurants when they start going back out.
Ms Dhiman added: "We have paid for that offering take out pints for the last three weeks. It is an uphill struggle but we are fully booked in both bars for July 4. The email has not stopped which is really promising. Leeds has the best independent bar scene in the country and I really want to say support it because it has never needed it more."
City business experts say that while it is not quite business as normal the announcement will help more places to re-open.
Mark Goldstone is Head of Business Representation & Policy at the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. He said: “These steps will enable more companies to reopen and will be cautiously welcomed across our region. While the relaxation of the two-metre rule will help more of our hospitality and leisure venues increase capacity, we are still a long way from business as usual. Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis. Our own research suggests that regional businesses are adopting a safety first approach to reopening and that many will be dependent on the swift return of consumer confidence.”
Andrew Cooper, chief executive at LeedsBID added: “Today’s announcement on the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown will serve to further benefit the city’s businesses including the vital hospitality and leisure sectors as they prepare to return on the July 4. We will continue to support businesses in a practical way and reassure consumers through our campaigns as we welcome them back to Leeds.”
However, pub campaigners say while they welcome the news there are still some areas for concern. The newly launched Campaign For Pubs organisation say the one metre rule and table service only requirement, as well as data collection of customers, is not viable or practical for many establishments. It has also urged the government to look at relaxation of licensing restrictions, rent free periods, financial support for pub staff and business rates reform.
Paul Crossman, chair of the Campaign for Pubs said: "I welcome today’s announcement by the Prime Minister and this move by the Government to help enable those pubs that can open safely and viably under the new measures to do so. The pub trade can only act in accordance with Government advice and today’s announcement was necessarily cautious, and as a result it means that many publicans will need to make a decision as to whether the guidelines will work for their individual business or not. For a great many pubs, especially smaller
community pubs which generally rely on key periods of high-density trade to be viable, these measures will not make a return to sustainable trade possible."
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