Oakman Inns has already taken over 3,000 bookings for 4 July when pubs are allowed to reopen – and two of its sites are fully sold out, its CEO revealed as he welcomed the relaxing of measures affecting the hospitality sector.
Reacting to yesterday’s announcement from Boris Johnson that pubs, bars and restaurants could open their doors to customers again, Peter Borg-Neal said: “We’re delighted that the prime minister, the government and their scientific advisors have listened to the hospitality industry and the recent comments we’ve made with regard to our determination to open our doors, and welcome their decision to reopen the pubs and restaurants of England on 4 July. Far more important, however, is the decision to reduce the two metre social distancing rule to one metre plus.”
“There is substantial public enthusiasm for us to reopen and we have already taken over 3,000 bookings for July 4th with two of our 28 pubs already fully booked. The critical impact for us will be the reduced capacity – not a lack of public demand. The significant challenge will be to ensure that everyone who visits us and works for us has a safe and enjoyable time.”
To comply with the new regulation to collect their customers’ contact details, Oakman Inns has created a bespoke mobile app which allows customers to make reservations and then order drinks and food from their phone without leaving their table.
“Apart from our reopening, my greatest delight, is that two households can meet inside or outside in groups of up to six, although there is still some clarification needed,” continued Mr Borg-Neal.
“It will be part of the normalisation process that will help bring the country back together, as families and neighbours are able to meet up and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries that have been on hold.
“However, for some of our colleagues in the hospitality industry it will be impossible for them to open economically until the distancing requirement has been removed. Those businesses are going to require continued financial and legislative support to give them a breathing space.”
Mr Borg-Neal said he believes that the entire hospitality sector still requires a package of fiscal interventions as businesses which have effectively been halved or terminated by the government – through no fault of their own – will have increased operating costs as well as reduced capacities as a direct result of the distancing rule.
“I’m sure the sector will require long-term financial stimulation in order to return to pre-pandemic financial levels. For example, we’d like The Chancellor to immediately cut the headline rate of VAT and would like the government to make a full root and branch reform of business rates ahead of April 2021.”
Oakman Inns was one of the first to reveal what its pubs could look like when they reopen under social distancing rules, modelling a prototype at its Betsy Wynne site in Buckinghamshire.