Pub sector chief executives set to step back from government talks over ‘lack of respect’: Chief executives from the UK’s leading pub companies have written to the government saying they are stepping back from talks with business ministers, after being exasperated at the “obvious lack of interest and respect” they are getting. In a letter sent to the prime minister, Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis writes: “Young’s is calling on the government to save our great British pubs and pull the country back from the brink of economic misery. Hundreds and thousands of jobs are at stake in the hospitality industry, which has been disproportionately hit by the pandemic while investing millions of pounds to create covid-secure environments for our customers. A letter today has today gone to Paul Scully to inform him the pub sector’s chief executives are resigning from his forum. It is abundantly clear it is just playing politics under the guise of consulting. We are shocked and appalled the government is basing its decisions to keep the great British pub closed on unfounded and unproven statistics. As the vaccination programme continues to gain incredible momentum and protects those most at risk, the government’s message to the pub sector remains despairingly bleak. We have been given no indication whatsoever that pubs will be allowed to reopen, nor any guidance about what restrictions may be in place when they can. In fact, the government has not engaged with our sector in any meaningful way since the start of this crisis. It is an affront to our industry and to the millions of livelihoods that British pubs sustain. Pubs are a huge part of our culture and are a significant part of every community. They are the only places where alcohol is consumed in a controlled and supervised manner. The government’s approach has forced friends and families to resort to meeting in each other’s houses. Its refusal to acknowledge this fact is wilfully and dangerously ignorant. There is absolutely no evidence to support some of the messaging suggesting pubs are a significant factor in spreading the virus. The sector has, in fact, supplied the government with evidence that clearly demonstrates we are part of the solution. We understand the need to follow covid protocols and will continue to ensure our pubs and restaurants are safe environments. The roadmap for pubs should be as it was back in July – nothing more, nothing less. We would then expect restrictions to be reduced to zero over a short few months. There is no reason why pubs cannot open in April, giving people back their liberty and their much-loved pub. The British Beer & Pub Association’s roadmap to recovery provides a clear, reasonable and safe way out of this crisis. It also reiterates the vast contribution our sector provides to our economy and culture. I implore the government to heed this advice. Please do the right thing and demonstrate strong leadership when our industry needs it most. A successful vaccination programme is meaningless if it does nothing to aid our economic recovery.”
English pubs and restaurants ‘can serve outdoors in April if cases keep falling’: Pubs and restaurants in England will be able to serve food and alcohol outdoors in April if coronavirus cases keep falling. The reopening of hospitality is being fast-tracked in a major boost to the struggling sector, Downing Street insiders told The Sun. Hospitality had been earmarked to reopen in May, with only the possibility of takeaway pints allowed in April. The rule of six and social distancing is expected to remain in place throughout summer as a compromise for the early reopening. It is understood a wider reopening for limited indoor mixing in pubs and restaurants is still planned for May. It has previously been reported the substantial meal rule and curfew will be scrapped when this happens. It comes after the UK’s R rate – the rate the virus reproduces – fell below one to its lowest level since July. The country is also on course to hit its target of vaccinating 15 million Brits in the top four priority groups by Monday (15 February). One minister told The Sun: “It is all going well. The rates are coming down, the numbers are looking good. We are on course for the roadmap. Outdoor ventilation is key. There are new mutations of the virus, but nothing changes how it spreads.” Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday, 22 February. The government has set a target of reopening schools on Monday, 8 March if the figures allow, but has remained tight-lipped on other measures. Scientists have warned against lifting lockdown too soon, saying infection rates are still too high for things to start returning to normal. But Conservative MPs are pilling pressure on Johnson to seize on the success of the vaccination programme and begin opening up society. However, the unnamed minister said: “We will be cautious, opening one thing to see how it goes before moving to the next.”
‘Cautious’ talks start with Wales’ tourist industry over reopening in time for Easter: “Cautious” talks about Wales’ tourist industry reopening in time for Easter have started, the first minister has said. But Mark Drakeford said the sector – which supports 10% of the Welsh workforce or 120,000 jobs – would not be opened “in one go”. Although he did not rule it out, Drakeford also suggested it was unlikely pubs and restaurants would be open at the start of April. He said a revised plan out of lockdown would be published “within days”. Drakeford said ministers were talking to the Welsh tourist industry, worth £6.3bn to the Welsh economy, “about what might be possible around the Easter period”. Wales' lockdown is set to be reviewed on Friday (19 February) and the first minister said it was all “very much caveated” and dependant on covid infection rates and variants of the virus. Drakeford said if progress against covid continued, the authorities could “slowly and cautiously” lift restrictions in the run-up to spring and Easter “in all aspects of our lives”. Asked if that meant it was unlikely pubs and restaurants would also be open at Easter, Drakeford said: “I don't want to rule things out quite in that way. The way we'll have to do it will be step by step, using what headroom we have, never doing too many things that put us back in danger. It will not be safe to lift restrictions over too many things all at once. That means prioritising things.” The first minister said the Welsh government's “cautious approach” would likely focus on the reopening of self-contained holiday accommodation in the first instance. Drakeford said anyone booking a holiday should do so “knowing the uncertain world that we are living in and that there are no guarantees”.
Jersey to reopen restaurants and food-led pubs next week: Restaurants and food-led pubs in Jersey will be allowed to reopen from Monday, 22 February. Venues will have to maintain two metre distancing and there will be a maximum of ten people per table, which can be made up of different households. Last orders will be at 10pm, and masks must be worn at all times except for when eating or drinking. Pubs that do not serve meals must remain closed. Staff working in hospitality are also being offered a free covid test. Jersey health minister Richard Renouf said: “While the relaxation of public health measures creates some risk, there are significant well-being benefits to reconnecting some of the activities we have all been missing. Officer advice on the balance of harms has convinced us the reconnection we are announcing is the best way forward for our community.”