'Keep them closed!' Britons react to Jonathan Downey's calls for pubs to reopen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd May 2020

Do the Brits love pubs, bars and restaurants enough for them to reopen successfully in july?

The British public house is more than just a place to drink beer, and restaurants are more than just providers of cooked food. They are where we go to socialise, gain a sense of community and an enjoyable way of contributing towards the local economy. 

And while UKHospitality recently published the advice it gave to the British government on how to reopen hospitality venues safely, including specific measures for pubs and restaurants, some have cast doubts on how viable it would be to open in accordance with the new guidelines.

Is it possible for pubs to reopen safely?

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Hospitality Union Founder Jonathan Downey argued that a safe, phased reopening of pubs should begin immediately. 

He said: "As a country, as a nation, we've done a great job so far, we've been a nation compliant with, we've with very few exceptions followed the rules, followed the guidelines, we've done what's been expected of us.

He said that the union was advocating for that to happen sooner than July 4th - when the government has indicated that some pubs would reopen. 

"Some pubs are ready to open this weekend. The bigger pubs, more space, outside space helps - shouldn't be the only guiding principle though.

"I think it's about whether you can operate safely, with all the distancing rules, where the workers are safe, where the team are safe and where the customers are happy to come in and enjoy a pint in the sunshine, inside or outside." 

For him, in so far as other protocols, with regards to sanitising and health, it is a matter of about hygiene and good practice - both of which hospitality professionals hold themselves to high standards in. 

"Pub owners are used to looking after their customers. People who work in hospitality spend their days and weeks looking after people. We're not on the front lines like NHS workers or health workers, but we are really good at looking after people."

Are Britons ready for pubs to reopen?

On the flipside, TV personality and owner of West Sussex's Half Moon Pub, Jodie Kidd, who also appeared on the show believes a safe reopening of pubs to be "virtually impossible."

She said: "The thing about our pubs - British pubs - is that a lot of them are really old buildings, ours is about 400 years old. It is just impossible to get around the bar, to get to the bathrooms and not encroach on that 2 metre social distance."

While she said she would love for pubs to reopen, she said it was crucial that they abide by the science and the law, and that this is impossible in smaller venues.  

"Especially after a glass or two. That's going to have to put my staff and my team in a situation where they're going to have to keep on going in between people to keep reminding them. I just think it's really important not to rush this."

People on social media seemed to side with Jodie, fearing that even with social distancing in place, the very nature of pubs would lead to rules being broken.


Many pubs  - and bars, and restaurants - may not reopen 

Whether it is the cautious and lawful decision to reopen pubs or not may be a matter of contention, but what happens in the coming months will seal the fate of tens of thousands of establishments across the country.

According to the most recent CGA AlixPartners market recovery monitor (as reported by The Guardian), the scale of the closures of pubs, restaurants and bars could be between 10% and 30% in the worst case scenario. Out of 115,108, that would mean up to 30,000 forced to close. 

For Jodie Kidd, even in the hospitality sector, pubs will be one of the last places people have the confidence to return to, and called for more help from the government to support them. 

"Before the coronavirus we were losing up to three pubs a day," Jodie Kidd said. 

"It's a very hard industry, the margins are very tight and very small. 

"So goodness gracious, I don't know how many pubs are going to survive getting through the coronavirus and I think it's going to be quite a shock how many don't open their doors again. 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd May 2020

'Keep them closed!' Britons react to Jonathan Downey's calls for pubs to reopen