One-in-four pubs can’t reopen at 2m distancing, BII survey finds

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Common thread: ‘many pubs will struggle to open at all, having environments not designed for social distancing,’ according to BII chief executive Steve Alton
Common thread: ‘many pubs will struggle to open at all, having environments not designed for social distancing,’ according to BII chief executive Steve Alton

Related tags Pub Alcoholic beverage Public house

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has found that while three quarters of pubs could reopen in some way, shape or form, under two-metre social distancing rules, 82% of them would do so at less than half of pre-pandemic turnover levels.

The survey of the BII’s 8,500 members summarised that while only a quarter of pubs state that they would be simply unable to reopen under two-metre social distancing rules, the vast majority of those able to trade would do so at diminished turnover levels. 

According to the BII’s findings, 82% of respondents stated that reopening at two-metre distancing would yield less than 50% pre-pandemic turnover, while a whopping 97% claimed such measures would see their turnover drop below 75%.

BII data did, however, reveal that if social distancing measures were halved to one metre – in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines – only one-in-10 publicans would not be able to resume trading, with 65% of respondents somewhat or very confident they could provide a safe environment for staff and customers under one-metre spacing guidelines.

This chimes with news reported by The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​) that the halving of social distancing rules in Denmark to one metre, in line with WHO guidance, prevented a Copenhagen gastropub operator​ from an “impossible” 70% capacity cut.

What’s more, in a recent statement, 74-site operator Revolution Bars Group revealed it was aiming to deliver sales of approximately 55%​ of the prior year comparable period as a “best case” scenario.

“Many pubs will struggle to open at all, having traditional pub environments not designed for social distancing,” BII chief executive Steve Alton explained. “While a number of other pubs have been able to diversify their businesses and offer takeaways, deliveries and other services to local customers, the majority have made very little money through these activities but were keen to contribute to their communities during lockdown.

“If there is one common thread running through the results of the survey, it is the uncertainty that our members are facing wherever they turn at the moment,” Alton continued. “They need clarity and support both locally and nationally to enable them to balance the health and safety of their staff and customers, their livelihoods and future survival, while still delivering a great pub experience.”

Reopening concerns

After profitability – which was flagged as the main concern for resuming trade post-lockdown by 87% of those quizzed by the BII – consumer confidence, physical changes to their pub and the timescales and costs of restocking were highlighted as the most pressing issues facing pubs over the coming weeks.

What’s more, when asked how confident they felt about managing the flow of staff and customers in their reopened pub, only one-in-three (32%) claimed that they felt up to the task.

Additionally, just over half (53%) claimed that it would be possible to adapt their back-of-house areas to operate in line with the Government’s 5 Steps to Working Safely’ advice, while 61% of respondents stated that they felt confident about managing staff and customer flow in outdoor trading areas.

On top of this, just over one-in-three respondents don’t believe staff will feel confident returning to work once pubs reopen.  

While 91% of pubs responding to the BII’s survey claim to have furloughed staff, the BII found 32% of businesses are considering making redundancies, with two thirds (65%) claiming that they would need to offload staff if they had to contribute to furlough if their business remained closed.

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Related topics Health & safety UnitedWeStand

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