Will Manchester’s pubs, bars and restaurants re-open in June?

Wetherspoons reckon they’ll be opening pubs next month - and it's got people asking questions
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Pubs, bars, restaurants and all other social spaces across the country have been closed for just over six weeks now.

The UK is now “past the peak” of the coronavirus outbreak and “on a downward slope” following weeks of strict social distancing rules, according to prime minister Boris Johnson.

Bo Jo has given the first sign that some of the lockdown restrictions could start to be eased soon. Suggesting that in the week commencing 4 May, ahead of the 7 May legal deadline for reviewing the lockdown, the government will start to set out its plans for easing some elements of the lockdown.

The plan will initially cover three areas: how the UK can restart its economy, how children go back to school and how people can go back to work.

Manchester pubs, bars and restaurants have been shut since the government ordered the closure of social venues on 20 March. So with the hospitality industry hit hard by the lockdown, many people are asking when food and drink establishments will reopen. 

As it stands, no pubs, bars or restaurants in Manchester – or anywhere across the nation – will open next month. Bars have had no choice but to pour beer down the drain and many restaurants have resorted to offering takeaway and delivery in a desperate effort to generate some revenue.

Even when venues are eventually given the green light to reopen, they will inevitably have to follow measures such as social distancing. Considering capacity and covers versus margins, opening, although a positive step in the right direction, could be just as difficult for operators to make a living. 

“It’s very challenging to think about how we’re going to save our business,” said Atlas Bar proprietor Mark Wrigley. “Our rateable value is above the threshold so no [government] support there. My wife and I were at the bar the other day trying to figure out how social distancing could work. I think when we do open back up, with social distancing measures, we will need to hire door staff more regularly [to keep numbers down] and we’ll probably be trading at 25% of what we usually trade. And we wouldn’t even consider putting our prices up. We have some very loyal customers who support us but it wouldn’t be sustainable.”

The government has not yet set a date for them to re-open and hospitality is likely to be one of the last sectors of the economy to reopen to the public because they are ‘the arch-nemesis of social distancing’ – social hubs where people gather in small spaces and interact closely, meaning there’s a greater chance that Covid-19 can spread. 

However, JD Wetherspoon, the pub chain boasting 860+ branches across the UK, recently announced that it is planning to reopen venues ‘in or around’ June.

The statement from boss Tim Martin came after controversially arguing that Whetherspoons “should stay open during the coronavirus lockdown,” so make of that what you will.

The latest statement said: “The company is likely to make some changes to its operating model, assuming increased social distancing, and anticipates a gradual recovery in customer numbers.

“Wetherspoon pubs are substantially larger than average, and most have outside facilities. The company believes these factors are likely to assist if social distancing measures apply.”

And that hasn’t pleased Sacha Lord, who was appointed Greater Manchester’s first ever Night Time Economy Advisor in 2018 and reports directly to Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

“I’m disappointed to see that Wetherspoons have publicly announced the potential opening of their venues so soon,” said Sacha.

Sacha Lord (right) with Andy Burnham (left)

As co-founder of some of the biggest music events in Europe, including The Warehouse Project and Parklife festival, he knows a thing or two about social spaces and health and safety. 

“I want to hear the exact details of the plans but I hope there will be adequate measures in place to ensure the guidelines are adhered to, whether that is through social distancing or one in one out policies,” continued Mr Lord.

“We have to ensure the safety of customers, staff and the public remains the first priority. A ‘first across the line approach’ is not in this spirit, and I fear this decision will create unnecessary pressure on others to follow suit.

“We need to ensure that as a nation we are best placed to reopen. This a decision that can only be made by the government and not the individual operators themselves, so as to limit the possibility of a second wave and our industry needing a second lockdown later down the line.”

How can I support Manchester pubs, bars and restaurants during lockdown?

Tampopo founder David Fox

As of today’s date, pubs, bars and restaurants will not open next month and you should still self-isolate. Be good and support your local favourites from home…

  1. In order to ensure businesses can survive the lockdown and actually reopen, Manchester Hospitality Network (MHN) are getting behind the #NationalTimeOut campaign launched by Jonathan Downey and the Hospitality Union. The campaign is calling for a 9-month national rent-free period amongst other financial freezes in order to save and protect thousands of businesses and two million jobs across the UK.

    “Over the past few months, we have watched our friends close their doors due to Covid-19,” said a MHN spokesperson.
    “It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is suffering and without continued support, the future of our beloved industry is under threat and millions of jobs are at risk. Please get behind this [#NationalTimeOut campaign] and support the campaign.Tampopo co-founder David Fox said: “The cost models of restaurants are based on people socialising and having a good time, and that’s not going to happen in the near future. So the support of the government is huge and the support of all our supply chains – and the National Time Out [campaign] is a massive part of that – is really really important for our survival. I pay on average £100,000 per month to the government when I’m fully trading. The government has been and always will be the single biggest financial beneficiary of my business and that’s really important because we all want to get back to being open, and paying the massive taxes that we do going forward and serving great food and experiences.”
    Sign the NationalTimeOut petition here.
  2. You can join campaigns like Long Live the Local, which is trying to get the government to freeze beer duty to support pubs when they finally re-open.
  3. Many Manchester bars and operators are offering to deliver cocktails to your door during lockdown. Having drinks delivered not only improves your ‘big night in’ but it’s also a sound way to support your local bars and bartenders. Read more about the Manchester bars delivering cocktails to your doorstep during lockdown.
  4. Many Manchester restaurants are offering click and collect and even delivery service during lockdown. Buying gift vouchers means you can help bars and restaurants now AND have something fun to look forward to. Browse available vouchers here and pay it forward.
  5. Follow and share recipes from Manchester chefs at home.

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