There’s no question that this was a desperately-needed measure, with businesses throughout the country facing a fight for their financial future after everything shut down in March. For some – for too many – opening time has come too late and we will all hope that the business casualties of this awful situation can rebuild at some point.
For those fortunate enough to be able to start up again, the hospitality industry is going to look very different. The doors may be open but the list of rules and restrictions licensees and landlords face are as long as the queues which might well form outside some of the more popular watering holes and eating houses.
Obviously safety is paramount, but the new normal is going to be a very challenging environment. And it all means a lot of hard work for licensees and their staff: maintaining social distancing, taking customer names and numbers, dealing with bar orders via phone apps, one in-one out toilets, outside tables and chairs, no loud music, little live music, no sport screened, no sheltering inside from bad weather, staggered opening times agreed with neighbouring bars and restaurants…
Let’s face it, it’s a logistical nightmare, even before the issue of compliance with the terms of the licence rears its head.
One thing is sure: the Government will have to give clear guidance on all the restrictions well ahead of the opening up date. The hospitality industry is too important – economically, socially and in terms of national morale – not to be allowed to recover from the setbacks of recent months.
The return to something like normality in licensed premises throughout Britain is likely to be steady-paced at best. But hundreds of thousands of skilled and dedicated industry workers will make it work. So let’s raise a glass to all those about to be pulling pints, decanting wines and serving food somewhere near you, just like they used to. Well, almost.