Not least amongst all this second-guessing is the vexed question of when will the nation’s pubs finally be allowed to open their doors again and go about their lawful business? Reports circulating a few weeks ago suggested that pubs could potentially reopen as early as April but would not be able to serve alcohol.
Prof Whitty is reported to be single, a teetotaler who admits to no outside interests, so he’s not exactly the pub goer’s champion. He conveniently ignores the fact that when pubs were finally allowed to open their doors, for a few glorious months last summer, the vast majority of pub-goers behaved sensibly and responsibly.
Reading between the lines, it seems as though drinkers will be encouraged to make full use of outdoor drinking spaces, such as pub gardens and patio areas, but this suggestion has opened another set of problems.
The most recent news suggests that pubs will be permitted to reopen from April, but only with customers seated outside. These tentative plans to allow beer garden service only, have attracted fierce criticism from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) - the industry trade body that represents the pub sector.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said, “Even if some pubs
did try to open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain
and they would find it has all been for nothing. For many pubs, gardens are at
the back and the only way to access them is through the inside. And of course,
toilet facilities would still need to be provided.” She finished by saying, “We
question the government’s thinking behind this and suggest they consult with us
as a sector on it.”
The BBPA is pushing for pubs to be able to serve customers indoors as soon as non-essential shops are allowed to reopen. It said about 75% of pubs have some outdoor space but only 40% could open it if restrictions on indoor movement persist. Most of those that could open would not break even due to the logistical challenges and unpredictable April weather. Restricting indoor service would mean just 17% of UK pub capacity would be available, resulting in £1.5bn of lost turnover compared with normal times.
“Until then, the government must do all it can to support our sector, until it opens to trade properly, in the upcoming budget.” Hear hear!
From a personal point of view, whilst fully endorsing the BBPA suggestions, if pubs are forced down the outdoor drinking route, I will definitely support them with my custom, as long as this "half-way house" idea is just a temporary step along the road to full opening, with proper, stand-up, vertical drinking.