There is a long list of things people are desperate to reopen when lockdown restrictions are lifted.
For parents, schools are obviously very high on the list. People are also eagerly awaiting the return of gyms, hairdressers and shops that aren’t just the local supermarket.
But for many, nothing comes above the return of the pub.
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Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues have been closed in England since December in most parts of the country. Takeaway drinks have now also been banned.
The industry has been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a net loss of almost 6,000 licensed premises last year, triple the number from 2019.
When could pubs reopen after lockdown?
The Government has not yet published its lockdown exit strategy. Boris Johnson has said he will set out a strategy for the “gradual and phased” easing of lockdown in the week beginning 22 February.
He said this is the earliest date schools could reopen, adding that “economic and social restrictions” could be eased “then or thereafter,” meaning pubs, restaurants and the rest of the hospitality industry will have a longer wait.
The 8 March date is based on progress in vaccinating the most vulnerable groups in society by mid-February and then giving the jab time to take effect.
On 12 February, i exclusively revealed the Prime Minister’s three-stage plan for reopening the economy after lockdown.
The final stage of Mr Johnson’s plan would be put into action if there was no significant rise in the R number in the week leading up to Good Friday, on 2 April, following the reopening of schools and non-essential retail.
This would allow hospitality businesses, including hotels, restaurants and pubs, to open their doors from the Easter weekend.
Subsequent reporting from the Daily Mail indicated that the Prime Minister was pursuing a gradual exit from lockdown targeting the nation “broadly” returning to normal by July.
The newspaper claimed that restrictions on hospitality could be eased at four-weekly intervals starting with a “limited” Easter holiday in April – when holiday lets and larger hotels would reopen – while pubs, bars and restaurants would have to wait until May.
It added that restrictions such as a two-household limit for sitting indoors and the return of the rule of six for outdoor gatherings would apply to hospitality businesses, with the rule of six potentially extended indoors in June.
According to an exclusive i poll published on 18 February, the opening of pubs and restaurants is the aspect of lockdown easing that the public is most cautious about.
While respondents tended to support the reopening of schools from 8 March, just 22 per cent believed hospitality businesses should open by the end of March.
21 per cent said they should open in April and 50 per cent said they should not open before May.
What were the rules for pubs under the tier system?
The Government has indicated that England will re-enter a tiered system of restrictions when nationwide measures ease, although this now appears unlikely.
Under the three-tier system that was in place in December, pubs in tier three could only serve alcohol with a substantial meal. You could also only go to the pub with people in your household or support bubble.
In tier two, you could only sit indoors with people in hour household, while the Rule of Six applied in outdoor areas. There was also a 10pm curfew, which was later extended until 11pm
It is now thought that the curfew or substantial meal rules will not be reintroduced, but this has not been confirmed.
The Rule of Six applied in both indoor and outdoor spaces in tier one, and the curfew was also in force.
Pubs were shut completely in tier four areas when the additional level was introduced later in December.
— to inews.co.uk