In a briefing yesterday evening, the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, made clear that pubs and restaurants would be allowed to open from July 4 “at the earliest”. The move strongly suggests that the government plans to stick to its original recovery roadmap, first outlined in May, which places the reopening of hospitality businesses in the third phase of the process.
Mr Sharma said: "I know there's been a lot of speculation about when we might be able to reopen these parts of the economy and I completely understand why we're all so keen to get them back up and running, and I absolutely share that enthusiasm.
"But we continue to follow the road map which set out our ambition to reopen these sectors from 4 July at the earliest."
Despite, however, the government’s reluctance to bring forward the reopening date, the hospitality sector was provided with some positive news. According to draft guidelines, seen by the hospitality newsletter, Propel, the government will insist on “wider spacing” between tables, rather than the formal 2-metre rule, widely criticised by the sector.
Senior government officials also told The Times that while the guidance could retain the two-metre rule initially, alternative guidance on smaller distances was being prepared for when the rule was relaxed.
In a further boost to the high street, it was also announced yesterday that there will be no delays to the planned reopening of non-essential retailers on Monday. Sharma confirmed that from June 15, non-essential retailers, such as clothing stores and bookshops, would be able to welcome customers for the first time since March 23 — but only if they had made their premises “Covid-secure”.
The COVID-recovery timeline:
Non-essential retailers to reopen on June 15
Hospitality businesses and hairdressers will reopen from July 4 at the earliest
The Scottish Government will decide whether to move into “phase 2” of its recovery roadmap on June 18