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Mon 8th Jun 2020 - Update: Re-opening, The Restaurant Group and Patrick Dardis
Ministers identify 22 June as re-opening date for pubs and restaurants serving customers outdoors: Ministers have identified 22 June as the date when they hope to reopen England’s pubs and restaurants serving customers outdoors, amid fears of mass job losses if the hospitality sector misses out on the lucrative summer season. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is among half a dozen ministers – calling themselves the “save summer six” – seeking to accelerate the reopening of the economy, according to the FT. The hospitality sector was not due to open until 4 July. Downing Street said no date had been set for the reopening of beer gardens, terraces and marquees, but three senior Whitehall officials said the target date was 22 June. The cabinet will discuss the plan on Tuesday. Business secretary Alok Sharma has been asked by the prime minister Boris Johnson to make the case for cutting Britain’s 2m social distancing rule to allow for more customers to be served in commercial premises. The business secretary spoke to his Danish counterpart on Sunday to discuss the operation of that country’s 1m rule. Robert Jenrick, housing and local government secretary, is reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas. Cabinet office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden are also involved in the “save summer” project. Sunak is among those who would like to see a full reopening of pubs and restaurants before 4 July, with social distancing rules in place.

The Restaurant Group makes market announcement in response to Propel CVA exclusive: The Restaurant Group has issued a market announcement in response to Propel’s exclusive story yesterday reporting that the company is considering a CVA for its leisure division. The announcement state: “The Restaurant Group notes recent press comment. As is widely understood our industry is facing exceptional challenges in what is an unprecedented operating environment. The casual dining sector was already facing significant challenges prior to the onset of covid-19, with overcapacity and significant cost pressures. In order to meet both the immediate challenges and to build a post-lockdown business with a sustainable future, we are in discussions with our landlords regarding potential restructuring options for our Leisure estate. Our Wagamama, Airport Concessions and Pub operations are not affected by these discussions. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.”

Young’s boss Patrick Dardis calls on Boris Johnson to relax two-metre rule: Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to relax the two-metre social distancing rule. In a column for The Daily Mail, he writes: “Boris Johnson has a decision to make in the next few days that will determine whether hundreds of thousands of shops, bars, theatres, cinemas and restaurants are doomed to close for ever. The Prime Minister has reportedly been spooked by warnings that up to 3.5 million jobs could be lost if the hospitality sector is not allowed to return to business this summer. Those predictions may terrify him now, but I want to tell him bluntly, he hasn’t seen anything yet. It is difficult to know where to begin in outlining the numerous problems facing the hospitality, travel, and retails sectors because of covid-19, but let me start with one thing that is easily put right. We are almost unique in Britain in adhering to an arbitrarily established two-metre rule of social distancing. A gap of one metre is sufficient in many countries – including France, Denmark, Singapore and China – and most crucially it satisfies the World Health Organisation. Yet for reasons that no one can explain, we are sticking doggedly to two metres, and the Prime Minister, we understand, will stay with it until a mysterious scientific consensus emerges that will give him political cover to relax it. I’m afraid it fits the pattern of contradictory and baffling policies that has become the hallmark of this government’s handling of the pandemic. But the specific folly of the two-metre rule is that it renders it effectively impossible for a pub, restaurant, theatre or airline to operate. People talk wistfully of a new era of outdoor drinking and dining, but you cannot open a hospitality business without toilets, and how can you operate those facilities with a two-metre rule? In addition, the vast majority of restaurants and pubs, especially in cities, do not even have gardens. According to our industry’s best estimates, if the two-metre rule remains in force, only about a third of hotels, pubs and restaurants would be viable. With the limit adopted by most other countries, this rises to about 70%. My specific knowledge is of the pub trade, which had its own structural problems long before the pandemic. Sadly many of the 60,000 or so British pubs will close permanently, even if all restrictions were lifted today. But the carnage will be much, much worse if the rules stay as they are. The trouble is that politicians tend to pull or drink a pint only during election campaigns. But I would like to take Mr Johnson to visit our shuttered pubs, which have been the heart of community life. We gave away as much of our food stocks as we could; but in the basements of tens of thousands of pubs stand barrels of condemned beer, waiting to be poured down the drain when furloughed staff return. Roughly two-thirds of pubs in the UK are operated as individual businesses, and I can tell Mr Johnson bluntly that if the two-metre rule remains in force, many thousands of them will simply not reopen because they know they cannot make a living. Ministers deserve credit for the job protection scheme and other relief measures to business. But this will all be in vain if whole industries fall off a financial cliff once the furlough scheme inevitably comes to an end. The government’s scientific advisers urge caution about the two-metre rule, but that is what scientists do. Besides, two metres is both confusing and effectively unenforceable in any social situation, and certainly on public transport. Leading us out of the lockdown requires weighing risk of the virus against the danger of economic paralysis, in turn leading to permanent social and mental health epidemics. Only Boris Johnson can make these huge calls that will determine nothing less than the future of the economy. He needs to be out front and in command, not stuck in Downing Street agonising over conflicting scientific advice. He must start by removing the two-metre burden on our small businesses. The measure is scientifically unfounded, and regarded as unnecessary by governments that have done a better job than our own in fighting covid-19.”

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