On February 3, Boris Johnson announced that a roadmap out of lockdown would be published on February 22.
This will be welcome news for business owners and those currently on furlough, as dates for businesses to reopen should be revealed.
Pubs and other hospitality venues may have reason to be hopeful that they could reopen before Summer, as Boris Johnson’s hopes to lift a significant number of restrictions in the next three months.
So, when could pubs and restaurants reopen? This is what we know so far.
When might pubs and restaurants reopen?
Although the government are remaining tight-lipped about the finer details of reopening the country, there have been reports that hospitality could reopen as early as mid-April.
According to government sources, there are ongoing discussions about whether the roadmap should see hospitality return to some normality in April or a more hesitant approach should be taken, leaving restrictions in place until May.
A Whitehall blueprint currently being curated by government advisors for the Prime Minister to consider suggests higher education and further education could be back in mid-April, and non-essential shops will reopen at the same time.
Then, in late April, hospitality venues, hotels, leisure facilities and some sporting venues will open their doors. Entertainment - such as cinemas, theatres and arcades - would remain shut until May.
On Wednesday 17 February, the Prime Minister acknowledged that hospitality was left until last in the previous lockdown easing - he said: "I know there's a lot of understandable speculation in the papers and people coming up with theories about what we're going to do, what we're going to say, and about the rates of infection, and so on.”
The reopening of pubs and restaurants in April would only be possible if the national r-rate was to continue to fall, it is currently below one - which was achieved on week commencing 8 February for the first time since last July.
However, any dates announced next week have been caveated with a “no earlier than” approach, meaning nothing in the roadmap is guaranteed.
At present, it is illegal to open any non-essential hospitality setting for service, other than takeaway and delivery.
Government guidance states: “with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.”
What will the rules be when pubs reopen?
The rules could be dependent on whether the government chooses to reopen in April or wait until May.
Should pubs reopen in April, it has been suggested that this would only be for outdoor spaces such as beer gardens and rooftop bars.
It is also believed that the ‘rule of six’ and two-meter distancing will be reintroduced, to counteract the influx of people and serve as an extra barrier to ensure another lockdown is avoided.
The speculation around pubs came as the Prime Minister asked the public to remain “optimistic but also patient” with regards to the current vaccination programme success, stating he wanted “this lockdown to be the last” but there was no “cast iron guarantee.”
By 30 April in England, all over-50s and clinically extremely vulnerable people should have received their first dose and the second dose should be administered 12 weeks later.
Therefore, the greatest degree of immunisation will be achieved by 30 July - it is possible that normality will not fully resume in hospitality settings until vaccination targets are reached.
In January, local authorities were granted powers by Westminster to keep hospitality in their areas closed until 17 July 2021 if there is a need to.
What impact has lockdown had on hospitality?
The hospitality industry makes up a third of the economy in the UK, and has been disproportionately impacted by the lockdowns since March 2020.
In the first three months of lockdown in 2020, the industry shrunk by 23 percent and 85 percent of the workforce was furloughed.
Research by Statistica suggests that pubs lost 44 percent of profit in March 2020 - in comparison to the same period in 2019. This rose significantly in August when lockdown eased, to a loss of only 10 percent.
However, with the closure of all pubs and the inability to sell takeaway alcoholic beverages it is expected that this will now be upwards of 90 percent.
The same could be suggested for restaurants, which suffered a 63 percent drop in sales in March 2020, when restrictions were much the same as they are currently.
As of December 2020, 279,000 jobs had been lost in the hospitality industry.
What support has the UK government offered to bars and restaurants?
The sharp rise in profits seen in August and September can be attributed to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, introduced by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Although welcomed at the time, these feelings of support soon dissipated due to increased lockdown measures introduced in late September and October.
However, there has been some longer term support, such as furlough, which has paid the wages of thousands of workers across the UK, to the tune of £46.4m (December 2020).
The hospitality sector will also not be required to pay business tax for the tax year of 2020-2021.
There is also a string of bounceback loans, future funds and a business interruption loan scheme.
Rishi Sunak also announced a further one-off payment for large businesses impacted by lockdown, which will support businesses until April.
You can view the financial support offered by the government on its website.