IT’S the best news BAR none – boozers across the country are getting ready to reopen their doors this weekend after more than three months shuttered.
But they will need to follow some very strict guidelines, with many relying on one-way systems, reduced seating, one-use pint glasses and a heap of hand sanitiser.
Now landlords and landladies across the country have shared how they're prepping for July 4 – and the extreme measures they've gone to to ensure it's a success.
With a one metre distance rule, seated service only and punters having to share their contact details if they want a pint, it's going to be a whole new pub experience.
And while many can rely on huge gardens to accommodate their thirsty clientele, others are fearful a ban on live music and the strict requirements they must now adhere to could make their future uncertain.
Here we speak to watering holes across the country to see what a trip to the local will look like…
Temperature checks, one-way system & single-use pint glasses
Landlords Norman Liu, 44, and Warren Turner, 53 own Grade II listed country pub and inn the Horse and Groom in Oddington, Oxon.
With most of their regulars aged over 70, they are enforcing strict food and drink safety measures and have given their ten staff a day’s Covid training.
Norman says: “We are taking zero risks. If for any reason we think there’s a risk, we will close the pub.”
Staff will have temperature checks before every shift with an infrared thermometer and will follow strict PPE and handwashing measures.
They are also insisting customers have a fresh pint glass for every drink, follow a one-way system through the pub and use disposable menus and condiments.
Norman adds: “We’ll have gloves, we’ll have face masks and the face shield – all of these are disposable. We’ll make sure our pint glasses are washed in our dishwasher which is at 87C.
“We’re lucky enough to have a huge garden that will allow people to observe two metre distancing.
“What we will lose is the impulse buyers – when people come to the bar and go ‘oh I’ll have a packet of crisps’.”
The pub was built in the 1500s and kept serving pints through both WW1 and WW2.
Norman and his partner Warren bought the pub 14 months ago and worked through lockdown to operate as a takeaway service.
Norman explains: “We weren’t about to close the pub on our watch. It would have been really embarrassing to be the first publicans to shut.”
'I’ll have to refuse to serve them if they don't social distance'
Landlady Kelly Humphries, 49, is looking forward to welcoming holidaymakers back into her Blackpool promenade pub, The Mitre.
And the regular tourists have been in touch, telling Kelly they can’t wait for her to open her doors.
Kelly says: “They come the same weekends throughout the year.
“I’ve had a lot of them on the phone and through messenger asking if we’re opening. It’s nice to see some human activity on the streets.
“At the start of it, it was sad seeing Blackpool like that. It’s not what we’re used to.”
But this season locals and visitors will see a difference in the pub – with its capacity reduced from 118 to 40 seated customers both inside and out.
Kelly adds: “If they all come on the same weekend we won’t be able to fit them all in.
“We can have a few tables and chairs outside but obviously that’s going to be weather dependent. We can manage the metre distance inside ok.
“If they won’t keep the social distance, I’ll just have to refuse to serve them and they’ll have to leave.”
Ahead of July 4, Kelly is hanging social distancing signs, installing a hand sanitiser station and cordoning off the bathrooms.
“One of us will pour the drinks behind a bar and the other will be doing waitress service.
“As soon as a table leaves, we’ll be sanitising the table. We’ll only be using one tray to serve the drinks.
“We’ll leave the tray on the table and they’ll put their empty glasses on it.”
She hopes the measures will let Britain follow in the footsteps of European countries who have opened up to tourism.
She says: “I’m just hoping that it doesn’t spike and it won’t be too much longer for us to be like Spain. Spain are at full capacity on their terraces.”
Plastic screens, visors and gloves
Cousins Gamy Hayre, 53, and Bera Mahli, 63, can’t wait to open The Red Cow’s doors to their customers in Smethwick.
The dedicated duo have run the family-friendly pub – which serves authentic Punjabi food and traditional British beers – for ten years.
The Red Cow Pub and Grill is taking the Covid-19 risk seriously, installing plastic screens at the bar and supplying every staff member with protective visors and gloves.
Gamy says: “We’ve been working hard towards opening up.
“We’re being careful to put a lot of safety measures in place, it’s not as simple as opening the doors and off you go.
“We’ll need to use our space wisely and put our heads together to work out the best plan.
“If we need to cordon off the car park – half for parking and half for tables and benches – then we will do.”
The spacious Black Country pub will also open up its normally 100-seater function hall to socially distanced diners – but expects to halve its capacity to stick to the new rules.
The Red Cow will be allowing booked diners and walk-in customers so long as there are tables available.
The pub’s Covid-busting plans also include a one-way system, constant cleaning of tables and door handles – and hand sanitiser placed inside and outside the toilet area.
The Red Cow is part of a group of Desi pubs that transformed failed Black Country watering holes into family-friendly spaces, pairing Indian food with British beer.
Gamy adds: “We’re a family-run business and we worked hard to create a family atmosphere with good Indian food.
“It was really tough for the first few years but we turned the pub around and are proud of our clientele.”
'Vertical drinking is not allowed'
Pub owner Lawrence Santi, 40, is very excited to welcome guests back into his popular Primrose Hill pub, the Princess of Wales.
The bar – a favourite with dog walkers – will now operate a booking only system for its punters.
Visitors will be encouraged to arrive on time and to ensure no cross contamination, orders will be taken by staff on iPad at their tables and only contactless payment will be allowed.
Lawrence says: “Sadly there will be none of the standing and chatting at the bar like we were used too. Vertical drinking is not allowed.”
The landlord has said locals have been ringing him around the clock to check if he is already serving since the Government announced the easing of lockdown.
Lawrence adds: “I’m so positive about opening up again but it has been such a confusing time.
“When we received the 46-page government guideline letter telling us what measures had to be taken it took a long time to go through it all but we love our customers so much and we want to reassure them we are safe to open.”
As one of London’s most famous and picturesque pubs, visitors will have to be patient to return once again to their favourite drinking haunt.
New changes include at least half capacity of diners allowed inside – with around 80 people only at a time sitting in no more than groups of six.
Lawrence says: “We have outside space at the back for 30 people in our garden but the government has allowed us to add some extra tables at the front for two or four people to sit together.”
Table service app and Covid-trained staff
Landlady Kay Sugden, 56, is looking forward to reopening the historic Bingley Arms in Bardsey, West Yorkshire, next week.
The much-loved local outside Leeds has been run by the family for nine years and is currently managed by Kay and her stepson Ryan, 36.
But the pub itself claims to be one of the oldest in Britain, dating back over 1000 years to 953 AD.
During lockdown Kay transformed the pub’s garages into a local food shop and spent time carefully redecorating The Bingley Arms’ interiors.
Kay says: “We’ve used our time very wisely to make improvements. And now hopefully everybody’s really looking forward to getting back.
“Our clientele range from 18 to 96 but I don’t think a lot of the older ones will come out at first.
“The younger locals will want to get out and soak up the atmosphere but it will be harder on the older generation.
“I hope once we get back to some normality they’ll venture out a little.”
From July 4, the pub will run a one-way system for customers, an app for at table service, Covid-training for their staff, and a full sanitising of tables and chairs between customers.
There will be plenty of hand sanitiser available as well as disposable menus.
Only one person will be allowed in the toilets at a time.
Most of all, Kay hopes her dedicated locals enjoy a return to pub life while sticking to the new rules.
Kay adds: “It’s a bit of normality going to the pub, especially on the weekend with nice weather. You can’t beat it.”
'We're keeping the pub itself completely shut'
Brewery owner Paul Humpherson, 33, from Oxford, is planning on launching his new pub, The White House, on July 4.
The pub was due to welcome customers in the spring but the owner has been forced to delay the grand opening.
But with renovation work still ongoing, he will invite his punters to enjoy an al-fresco beer on picnic benches until autumn.
Paul says: “What we are going to do is keep the pub completely shut for the first few months because it’s going to need work.
“People can come, sit in the gardens, drink outside. When the pub is able to open its doors people will already be used to coming here for a drink.”
He adds: “My understanding of the science is that it’s much less risky in an outdoor space than an indoor space.
“People should get a bit of a taster of hanging out with their mates again.”
Paul – who already has a Brewery bar The Tap Room on the outskirts of Oxford – runs Tap Social which employs ex-offenders and trains them in hospitality.
With both venues, staff are installing social distancing rules and following health and safety guidelines to the letter.
But he says many landlords have struggled to understand the Prime Minister’s rules that pubs should note down customers’ details.
He says: “The most concerning thing which they haven’t clarified yet is about collecting people’s data.
“We’re obviously happy to do whatever we need to do to open. It’s not clear if you have to collect data for every single person or if it’s per group.
“There’s some more work for the Government to do to tell us what they are looking for.”
'With no live music, we're concerned for the future'
Popular music venue and pub Hootananny Brixton is welcoming its devoted followers back for a pint on July 4 – but its stage will remain silent.
The family-run venue in London reopens its doors next week but government guidelines means their live music performances will have to wait.
Venue owner Sophia Yates, 56, is deeply concerned about the future of her business but says Hootananny must reopen to cover some of their baseline costs.
Sophia says: “Everyone is missing the music – the grassroots music isn’t there.
“We’re a family-run music venue pub and my main concern is to keep the business going.
“In normal times we put on ten live bands five nights a week. Last week we had 40 acts doing a virtual festival.
“Everyone’s being very supportive through all of this but what about the future?”
Sophia says Hootananny will stick to the government’s new guidelines and use an app for ordering drinks, perspex screens at the bar and hand sanitiser.
The Brixton venue’s usual 870 capacity will be reduced to between 30 and 40 per cent and there will be tables evenly spaced across the bar and beer garden.
Under the government's current guidelines, approximately 800 grassroots music venues in the UK are still unable to perform live music in front of an audience.
This is due to concerns activities like singing and dancing could spread the virus.
In an open letter to the UK Government, the Music Venue Trust asked for a £50m financial support package to help music venues to survive and for VAT on future ticket sales to be slashed.
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