We won't wait for Boris on 2-metre rule, says pub boss

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We won't wait for Boris on 2-metre rule, says pub boss

A landlord's revolt swept across Britain yesterday as pub owners vowed to open on July 4 whether the Government relaxes social-distancing rules or

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A landlord’s revolt swept across Britain yesterday as pub owners vowed to open on July 4 whether the Government relaxes social-distancing rules or not.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said hospitality businesses can reopen after that date if the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK continues to fall.

But publicans said they were ‘angry and utterly frustrated’ that they still have not been given the green light.

Pulling no punches: Oakman Inns chief Dermot King is planning to open all 28 of its gastro pubs on July 4

Pulling no punches: Oakman Inns chief Dermot King is planning to open all 28 of its gastro pubs on July 4

Pubs and breweries need at least three weeks to get ready because beer must be brewed and social-distancing measures put in place.

But with just over two weeks to go, the Government is still refusing to reveal when pubs can open.

Yesterday, as frustration grew, publicans broke ranks and said they will plough ahead with a July 4 reopening no matter what the Government says. 

They said they have taken steps, including placing orders for beer and ordering staff off furlough, which would be costly to reverse and compound their dire financial situation.

More than 70m pints of beer have already been thrown away during lockdown and even more will go to waste if the re-start date is delayed.

At the same time the Government is locked in a battle over the two-metre rule with the hospitality industry. 

It has said a failure to reduce social distancing to one metre, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, will cost 1m jobs.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said yesterday he was ‘certain’ the Government would relax the rule by September.

A decision on reopening pubs will, however, not come until at least next week, a Whitehall insider said, leading landlords to say they would take matters into their own hands.

Dermot King, chief operating officer of Oakman Inns, which will open all 28 of its gastro pubs on July 4, said: ‘We cannot wait any longer and won’t change our plans unless the Prime Minister intervenes. 

More than 70m pints of beer have been thrown away during lockdown and even more will go to waste if the re-start date is delayed

More than 70m pints of beer have been thrown away during lockdown and even more will go to waste if the re-start date is delayed

‘The Government is taking huge risks on the livelihoods of generations of people. It is a national scandal.’

Essex publican Adam Brooks said he will open his two pubs, The Three Colts in Buckhurst Hill, and The Owl in Loughton, no matter what the Government says.

He said: ‘We have to open on July 4. We are paying full rent from one of the breweries, we have put in orders for beer for that date from our brewery and all our staff rotas are done.’

Fiona Hornsby, owner of The Bridewell in Liverpool, said: ‘We will be opening our pub with a beer garden on July 4, and we have a second pub which we’ll open three days later. The Government’s inaction is infuriating.’

Many pubs, such as the Red Lion in Leytonstone, have opened up table bookings online for July 4, which is a Saturday.

Hundreds of others are already offering takeaway pints in plastic containers, leading to crowding on some city centre pavements.

Until this week larger pub groups, which have grown disillusioned with ministers’ ‘dithering’, had tempered their anger in order not to appear cavalier.

On Wednesday the bosses of 50 breweries and pub chains wrote to Johnson to demand he confirm exactly when pubs can reopen by today.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: ‘The delay in the Prime Minister confirming a reopening date has moved beyond disillusionment to anger and frustration.

‘Huge investment for that opening on July 4 has been made. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost.’

Mark Davies, boss of pub group Hawthorn Leisure, said: ‘The Government hasn’t actually provided its guidance yet, which is a great disappointment to the industry and quite frankly it needs to stop dithering.’

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, said: ‘We’ve begun brewing fresh beer again to restock the nation’s pubs and now need to bring 14,000 staff off furlough to train them in the necessary safety protocols.

‘Continued indecision from Government is crippling the hospitality sector.’

A spokesman for Mitchells & Butlers said: ‘We urgently require confirmation of the July 4 opening date. We’ve already begun our preparations.’

Earlier this week independent British brewers said mass market international players would swoop on the UK market and take share unless the industry was kick-started with one-metre distancing.

The shift will consign pub-goers to a choice of ‘bland mass market beer’, the Society of Independent Brewers said.

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