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Pub bosses hit out at outdoor drinking plan

Pub bosses hit out at outdoor drinking plan: Landlords demand to be allowed to reopen their doors from early April… and blast calls for only al-fresco service ‘laughable’

  • Pub boss says UK’s wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable 
  • Patrick Dardis, boss of the Young’s pub chain, argues pubs should open in April 
  • Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, also criticised beer garden proposal 
  • Mr Martin said decisions ‘are made by ministers with no experience of business’

Pub bosses yesterday demanded the return of inside drinking in April – and called plans to only reopen beer gardens ‘laughable’.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the Young’s pubs chain, said wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable and a partial reopening would not be viable for many landlords.

His comments came after a bust-up between pub groups and the Government saw companies pull out of regular business roundtables in frustration.

Pub bosses yesterday demanded the return of inside drinking in April – and called plans to only reopen beer gardens ‘laughable’

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2, with a full reopening not expected until May at the earliest.

This has infuriated industry leaders, who yesterday backed demands by Tory MPs for lockdown restrictions to be fully lifted by the end of April, when most over-50s are expected to have been vaccinated.

Mr Dardis yesterday said: ‘There is talk about opening pub gardens but I’m afraid that is just nonsense. It is a ridiculous idea that you can just open up in outside spaces. This is the United Kingdom. Yes, of course, you occasionally get a half-decent spring and a good summer but it is mostly wet and cold. So what would be the point?

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the Young’s pubs chain, said wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable and a partial reopening would not be viable for many landlords. People are seen outside a pub in the rain in Windsor hours before Tier 3 restrictions came in last year

‘It demonstrates that certain people in government have lost touch with the public on this and just do not understand.’

He said Young’s, which has more than 200 pubs mostly in the South East, was losing £5million a month even after receiving state support such as business rates relief.

Mr Dardis, 61, added: ‘Every pub company in the land is burning through millions and millions of pounds every month we are closed – and most cannot afford to keep going for much longer.

‘On what basis are they making these rules? It is just laughable – as was the 10pm curfew, as was the nonsense about what a “substantial meal” was. When pubs opened last summer more than £500million was spent [making them Covid-safe]. But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the infection rate grew as a consequence of pubs being open.’

Mr Dardis has written to Boris Johnson criticising the Government’s ‘obvious lack of interest and respect’ towards the sector and argued that pubs should reopen in April.

Tim Martin, chairman of pubs giant JD Wetherspoon, also criticised the beer gardens proposal yesterday.

He said: ‘These decisions are made by ministers with no experience of business, or empathy for business.

‘In my 41 years in business, it’s the least consultative and most authoritarian government I’ve experienced.’

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2, with a full reopening not expected until May at the earliest. People are seen going for a drink in Dundee, Scotland when coronavirus restrictions were eased last July

Food delivery firm Deliveroo and 300 restaurant groups also called on the Government to help the hospitality industry yesterday and suggested that Chancellor Rishi Sunak should revive the Eat Out to Help Out scheme when they are allowed to reopen.

However, scientists have continued to urge caution over the easing of restrictions when Mr Johnson reveals his ‘road map’ out of lockdown for England next week. 

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said calls to reopen pubs in April were premature.

He said: ‘What the executives of pubs need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one. And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are deeply disappointed that some pub leaders have decided to step back from meetings with ministers. As we plan our way out of restrictions, we will continue to engage relentlessly with the hospitality sector, as we have done throughout this pandemic.’

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