UK cabinet minister Michael Gove has warned that pubs, bars and restaurants would be “among the last” to re-open when lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
Speaking told The BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (19 April) that hospitality businesses will be the last to exit lockdown after schools and other essential services .
“We have stressed that the reporting in today’s newspapers that schools will reopen on May 11, that is not true, we have not made that decision,” Gove said.
Asked about when pubs and restaurants would be back in business, Gove added: “The other inference that I draw from your question, which is that areas of hospitality will be among the last to exit the lockdown – yes, that is true, they will be among the last.”
The news will not come as much of a surprise to Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon, who told the drinks business earlier this month he did not expect pubs to reopen “until hospital admissions, infections and so on are on a definite downward trend.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said last week that pubs and brewers will need a minimum of three weeks notice of when they can re-open so they can prepare in advance.
The government has said it will make decisions on lifting the lockdown based on scientific and medical advice.
McClarkin said: “We all want to get back to the Great British Pub, but fully understand they need to re-open under safe and sustainable conditions – both for their staff and customers.”
In response to the Coronavirus lockdown’s impact on SMEs, the government announced it would support for small businesses, and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in the form of two grant funding schemes in Financial Year 2020- 2021: the Small Business Grant Fund; and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. The latter provides support for businesses in England that would have been in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) on 11 March with a rateable value of less than £51,000 per property.
However, the industry body chief added that pubs will need additional support to “ensure their survival” of they are to remain in hibernation for longer. The BBPA is lobbying for an extension to the current threshold for grants to above the£51,000 rateable value for pubs.
“If pubs are going to be the last to re-open, then it’s only right the government gives extra support to them to help ensure their survival,” McClarkin said.
“We are clear that unless the Government gives specific support to pubs now, thousands of them in communities across the UK could be lost for good. And with them hundreds of thousands of jobs too.”