When one size doesn’t fit all
Firstly, let’s acknowledge how good it is to see pubs, bars and restaurants doing what they’re supposed to: serving customers and putting smiles on the faces of all those who’ve missed their pint, their steak frites, their chance to catch up with friends – face to face.
Licensees and owners (and their staff) have been smiling too – happy to be serving food and drink to a clamouring public, albeit with restrictions in place since the partial reopening on April 19.
That said, there are an awful lot of venues out there still padlocked and silent, all stacked chairs and empty kitchens. Around two thirds of England’s licensed premises have been unable to take advantage of the partial reopening because they have no outside space. We’ll have to wait till mid-May – at the earliest – before the remaining 90,000-plus venues can open their doors and serve socially-distanced clients.
We won’t be holding our breath that this challenge to the might of Westminster will succeed, but we will all be raising a glass to those prepared to challenge the unfairness of the current operating rules.
No-one is saying the Government should act irresponsibly in its attempts to get the better of Covid-19. But what we at Complete Licensing – and most of the hospitality industry – would like to know is ‘where’s the one-size-fits-all approach here?’. At the moment, you can stroll around a supermarket or a town-centre store at your leisure, come as close as you like to fellow-shoppers and (as long as you’re wearing a mask) you won’t be breaking the law and no-one will complain. But if you were to sit at a table two or three metres away from other diners or drinkers inside a well-ventilated hospitality venue, were served by a mask-wearing waiter and didn’t even speak to anyone else you’d be breaching Covid rules, risking a hefty fine and a way bigger one for the license-holder.
The big argument seems to be ‘there’s a risk of infection as people can’t control themselves and stay socially-distanced when they’ve had a drink’. The counter-argument has two main thrusts: 1. Yes they can, especially if operating protocols are adhered to (Complete Licensing can advise on every aspect of this). 2. Have you seen the way people are acting in town centres and parks and gardens across the country? Where’s the difference?
This week has seen two prominent figures in the hospitality industry take their case for bringing forward indoor reopening to the High Court. It’s been dubbed a David v Goliath contest as they take on the Government but they are hopeful that – backed by proven scientific facts and figures – they can prove hospitality poses no real threat to the spread of infection.
We won’t be holding our breath that this challenge to the might of Westminster will succeed, but we will all, surely, be raising a glass to those prepared to challenge the unfairness of the current operating rules for our sector.