More than three-quarters of pubs could reopen if social distance rules were relaxed by up to a meter, the boss of a major trading organization said.
But if the two-meter conduction continues, only a third could reopen their doors and many would face further financial woes and ruin, warned Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, added that the cut would also make companies more viable, saying, “If you have two meter social distance, that’s the difference between 30% of normal income or 60% with social distance of one meter. “
She also warned that if the government does not support the hospitality industry with rent payments and an “extended flexible leave period until the end of the year with no employer contributions”, one in three locations could close for good and a million jobs could be cut off the supply chain
The struggling hospitality industry took on a glimmer of hope after Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted on Wednesday that restaurants, hotels and bars could potentially reopen earlier than planned, after asking scientists to revise the two-meter rule.
Miss McClarkin, whose organization represents about 20,000 British pubs and most breweries, told PA news agency that the required distance should be reduced to at least a meter, as in several European countries and advised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
She said, “We don’t ask unless it’s safe to do.
“It is an internationally recognized one-meter standard, which is used in France, Italy and Denmark, enabling a certain normality.
“The pubs are currently on a very finely tuned government life support machine.
“The longer they stay on it and with all the other drugs they have to pay for, some won’t survive.
“Once pubs close, they are very, very difficult to resuscitate.”
Miss McClarkin said that a survey of BBPA members showed that around 40% could not survive until September if they remained closed, and that the pub sector burned about £ 100 million in cash every month during closure.
Under current plans, pubs, hotels and restaurants will remain closed until July 4 at the latest.
Ms Nicholls added that tourism companies should be treated as a priority.
She said, “It is critical that highly seasonal tourism companies are opened as soon as possible.
“They’ve already lost half of the season, so we need to get them started with a confirmation date so customers can book a summer vacation with confidence.”
Miss McClarkin, a former Conservative MEP for the East Midlands region, said the survey of members showed that only a third could reopen under two-meter guidelines, and that figure rose to over 75% when reduced to one meter .
In the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Johnson told MPs that the Emergency Scientific Advisory Group (Sage) had been told to review guidance.
He said, “My own hope is that if we make progress in reducing the virus, reducing the incidence, we can reduce that distance, which I think will be particularly valuable in transportation and clearly in the hospitality industry.”
Mr. Johnson said that Sage’s advice remains that there is “a very significant reduction in the two-meter risk”.
Public Health’s medical director, Professor Yvonne Doyle in England, said the UK has taken a “cautious” approach when introducing the rule when other countries used shorter distances.
She told the Science and Technology Select Committee: “We are aware of the international differences and I am confident that this will be the subject of further research into whether two meters are really needed or whether it can be further reduced. “
Miss McClarkin said the bars have been locked to assess how to keep staff and customers safe, and has looked at thorough cleaning regimes and options, including limited bar service to reduce transmission.
Just under a million people are employed in the UK’s brewing and pub industry, with hundreds of thousands currently being laid off, and jobs could be lost if the two-meter social distance would continue, as fewer personnel would be needed, added they are ready.