The move to a one-metre social distancing rule should mean that most hospitality venues can trade at almost three-quarters of their capacity, it has been claimed.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that the current two-metre ruling would be phased out on 4 July, when pubs, bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen to dine-in customers.
Had the current two-metre guideline been in place, thousands of operators could have collapsed, according to Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.
“Reducing the minimum distance will be a huge help to hospitality,” she said. “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% of capacity, which could be the difference between failure and staying alive to see out the remainder of the crisis, particularly with added support.”
Ms Nicholls said that receiving confirmation of the 4 July reopening date was a “real boon”, insisting it would afford businesses time to make the necessary preparations.
“We are still awaiting the publication of guidance, and we have been working hard to make sure that businesses are fully equipped with our own reopening guidelines, but the initial clarity around the date is very helpful.
“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 secures businesses and jobs.”
Ms Nicholls noted that while many venues will endeavour to reopen on 4 July, capacities will be constrained by social distancing and some may be unable to trade viably at all.
She said continued government support would remain crucial.
“Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills. We need financial help from the government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again.”