Pubs reluctantly welcome Government move to allow outdoor service in April

Pubs in the Black Country and Staffordshire have reluctantly welcomed a decision to allow outdoor service only in April as lockdown is eased.

Leanne Giblin at the Duke of York pub, Lichfield
Leanne Giblin at the Duke of York pub, Lichfield

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the move as part of the 'road map' out of lockdown – with pubs being able to fully reopen in May.

It has been branded a "terrible idea" and "not fair" on the smaller pubs by pub chiefs in the area – whilst others have said it is "better than nothing".

Karl Gardner, who runs The Waterfall pub, The Haden Cross and The Bell & Bear in Cradley Heath, said the situation was a "tough one" to deal with.

He said: "We've got a beer garden but we've only got a limited amount of space [at The Waterfall]. We could get away with a tarpaulin and have people sitting outside, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do at the moment.

"It's a tough one for us [due to The Waterfall only having the space]. We can't open one and not the other two because we're a chain. Personally, I think it's a terrible idea.

Karl Gardner from The Waterfall pub

"I don't see what the problem is [due to people being vaccinated]. It's another two months until April – we've heard so far the grants will be up to March. The money we've got from the grants is just going out on bills at the moment and there's hardly anything left of them.

"If you can't open in April you have to wait for May. It's rubbish and it's not far on the smaller pubs. At our Hayden Cross pub – there's hardly any beer garden, it's not that kind of pub.

"You can't open one without the other two – we're probably staying shut until we're back up and running fully in May."

Steps out of lockdown

Government chiefs say pubs will allowed to be open no earlier than April 12 – with an announcement due the week before – with the possibility of it being delayed.

Step two – as it's called in the plan – will see pubs and restaurants open outdoors alongside non-essential retail as well as personal care businesses such as hairdressers.

Pubs will no longer have to abide by a 10pm curfew and there will be no requirement for alcohol to be announced by a substantial meal, the Prime Minister said in his announcement.

Step three, no earlier than May 17, will see pubs and restaurants allowed to open indoor areas. The 'rule of six', or the meeting of two households, will apply.

The Duke of York, on Greenhill in Lichfield, is among the pubs which have a beer garden – and will be able to service people outside in April under the new rules.

Pub manager Craig Giblin said: "So obviously you've still got to look to see if it's going to be practically and financially viable – getting everyone back on board and such.

"But we've got a nice beer garden – really good for the size of the pub – so we're hoping to open in April. It's one of those things, it's better than nothing at the end of the day.

Struggles

"It will be a struggle to get financially going again – it's not just opening, you've got a lot to consider. The rest of the year will be a struggle, no matter what.

"We would prefer to be able to open the full pub but we have to be realistic. I would rather have an extra month to wait than having to close again – it's better than it being rushed.

"It has been difficult because the landlady and landlord cover the Duke of York and The Angel Inn. The Angel Inn, our sister pub, hasn't got a beer garden which is frustrating.

"We didn't know when we were going to open until Monday and I think a lot of people can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. It's something to work towards."

John Smith, landlord of The Chindit Inn on Merridale Road in Wolverhampton, previously told the Express & Star it "wouldn't be worthwhile" to open under the rules.

He said: "Being a real ale pub, most of our sales are real ale and doing a small amount of beer – it wouldn't be worth opening. Really, it's ok if you've got a massive area outside – but even if you have you're reliant on the weather. It might work for some pubs, but not for me. I think when pubs open they should open altogether."

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