Pub operators set out measures to welcome back drinkers over coming weeks
Greene King, owner of Dunbar-based Belhaven, said it is introducing a new “safe socialising” layout to its 1,700 pubs in preparation for 4 July, which ministers have said is the earliest that pubs south of the Border will be able to reopen.
The group, which operates 125 pubs in Scotland including 95 under the Belhaven brand, said it has invested £15 million into pub safety, including protective measures for staff and customers such as Perspex screens and visors.
Tables will be spaced out in line with any government guidelines and customers will be encouraged to pre-book a table rather than stand at the bar, it said.
Greene King chief executive officer Nick Mackenzie said: “We can’t wait to welcome our customers back to our pubs and we know people are eager to return to their local.
“The safety of our customers and team members is always our number one priority and against the backdrop of a slow recovery from Covid-19, we are investing to put in place all the necessary arrangements.
“Of course, customers will notice some differences when they return but it’s important that alongside implementing the changes, we maintain the very essence of the great British pub.”
However, Mackenzie also stressed that a number of Greene King pubs “will not be financially viable or able to open” with current restrictions in place, as he called for the government to consider reducing distancing guidance from two metres to one.
Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Group, said the firm, which runs 48 boozers in London and the south east of England, is preparing to “cautiously” and “safely” welcome customers.
He said: “We are excited about the prospect of reopening, not least because we have an excellent team who are keen to get back to work and keen to show hospitality to customers again.”
Meanwhile, rival pub owner Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has secured an extra £100m in funding from its banks, HSBC and Santander UK, to bolster its finances ahead of reopening. It said it is losing around £15m in earnings before tax and interest for each four-week period while its pubs remain shut.
Tim Jones, chief finance officer at M&B, said: “We are grateful for the strong working relationships we have with our banking group, enabling us to put together this support funding in uncertain times.
“As we come through the challenges posed by the abrupt shutdown of the hospitality sector, we now look forward to welcoming back guests into our sites.”
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