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Pub bosses ‘excited’ as preparations gear up to reopen next month

UK News | Published:

Greene King said it has invested £15 million into improving safety in its pubs but said some sites will still struggle amid current restrictions.

A Greene King staff member wearing a protective visor at the Fort St George pub in Cambridge

UK pub bosses have said they are “excited” at the prospect of welcoming customers through their doors again as preparations ratchet up to safely serve customers from the start of next month.

Greene King said it is introducing a new “safe socialising” layout to its 1,700 pubs in preparation for July 4, which ministers have said is the earliest that pubs will be able to reopen.

The pub giant said it has invested £15 million into pub safety, including protective measures for staff and customers such as Perspex screens and visors.

Tables will be spaced out in line with any Government guidelines and customers will be encouraged to pre-book a table rather than stand at the bar, it said.

Greene King chief executive officer Nick Mackenzie said: “We can’t wait to welcome our customers back to our pubs and we know people are eager to return to their local.

“The safety of our customers and team members is always our number one priority and against the backdrop of a slow recovery from Covid-19, we are investing to put in place all the necessary arrangements.

“Of course, customers will notice some differences when they return but it’s important that alongside implementing the changes, we maintain the very essence of the great British pub.”

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Greene King
Protective screens have been installed at Greene King’s Fort St George pub in Cambridge (Greene King/PA)

However, Mr Mackenzie also stressed that a number of Greene King pubs “will not be financially viable or able to open” with current restrictions in place, as he called for the Government to consider reducing distancing guidance from two metres to one.

Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Group, said the company, which runs 48 boozers in London and the South East, is preparing to “cautiously” and “safely” welcome customers.

He said: “We are excited about the prospect of reopening, not least because we have an excellent team who are keen to get back to work and keen to show hospitality to customers again.

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“We will reopen with a reset, more efficient, streamlined business, reduced capital expenditure and our focus on the existing estate.

“We have a strong balance sheet not only to endure and prosper again, but also to take advantage of opportunities that arise.”

Mr Watson said that 2020 “began well” for the company before growth plans were curtailed in March by the pandemic.

Clive Watson, executive chair of City Pub Group
Clive Watson, executive chairman of City Pub Group (City Pub Group/PA)

City Pub Group furloughed 98% of staff after shutting its pub sites and entered into talks with landlords over rent holidays and deferrals.

The company said the crisis was a “one-off opportunity to reset the way the business is run” as it looks to improve efficiency across operations.

It came as the group revealed that revenues jumped by 31% to £60 million in 2019 as it rapidly grew its accommodation business.

Meanwhile, rival pub owner Mitchells & Butlers has secured an extra £100 million in funding from its banks, HSBC and Santander UK, to bolster its finances ahead of reopening.

It said it is losing around £15 million in earnings before tax and interest for each four-week period while its pubs remain shut.

Mitchells & Butlers results
Mitchells & Butlers run hospitality brands including All Bar One (Mitchells & Butlers/PA)

Tim Jones, chief finance officer at Mitchells & Butlers, said: “We are grateful for the strong working relationships we have with our banking group, enabling us to put together this support funding in uncertain times.

“As we come through the challenges posed by the abrupt shutdown of the hospitality sector, we now look forward to welcoming back guests into our sites, where safety will clearly be of paramount importance.”

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