In welcome news for many hospitality operators in England, the end is in sight. Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that lockdown restrictions will be partially eased for England, enabling pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, theatres, cinemas, zoos and, not least of which, hair salons (and many more) to re-open as of the 4 July, also commonly known as Independence Day.
In order to make this proposal viable, the Prime Minister has made the much-requested reduction to the social distancing measures down to “one metre plus”. This means that, where possible, people should remain at two metres distance, however this can be one metre at a minimum.
This reduction will help enable indoor businesses to increase capacity from approximately 40% to 70% on average, potentially moving towards, or even above, that all important break even point.
Unfortunately, the 4 July re-opening date has not yet been extended to several types of businesses such as nightclubs, spas, beauty salons and indoor gyms (amongst others). We await to hear a finite date from the government as to when this will be however will inevitably be linked to drops in the infection rate over the coming weeks and months.
So what will businesses have to do in order to be able to re-open?
Firstly, businesses must ensure they are complying with government guidance on being “Covid secure”. This might include staff wearing face masks and gloves, having screens at tills, table service and possibly seating ‘bubbles’ of customers so that they are back to back with other bubbles.
It has also been mentioned that restaurants (for example) will have to start taking contact details of customers in order to assist the track and trace application currently used by the government to contact those who may have been exposed to the virus.
For those businesses looking to re-open, a key question will now be how many staff to bring back from the furlough scheme. This will of course completely depend on expected levels of activity. Advance bookings are being encouraged to ensure that capacity levels can be managed, which in turn can be used to drive numbers of staff which will be required.
As of 1 July, staff will be able to return to work part-time whilst still within the furlough scheme, and this will prove a great relief to many hospitality businesses looking to re-open as it will help them to manage their costs more effectively.
How operators and customers take on government advice over the coming weeks and months will be crucial as, should there be a second spike in the virus, this may result in localised or even nationalised lockdown measures being reinforced, which could be devastating to the industry.