Inside Wetherspoons’ post lockdown pubs with limited bar service and disposable menus
Hundreds of pubs across the UK could be given the green light to reopen next month, following in the footsteps of several European countries who are now safely back in business.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson hinted the two-metre rule for punters may be halved as he announced boozers could be back in business within weeks.
Pub bosses welcomed the news – which would put the UK in line with other countries and advice from the World Health Organisation.
But what will the hospitality sector be like when pubs reopen – and will three-pint limits and app-only orders become the norm?
Last week, the UK’s biggest pub chain JD Wetherspoon unveiled an £11million package to help make its 874 pubs Covid-19 safe.
Bosses said branches will offer a slightly reduced menu when outlets reopen, while staff will have to take part in temperature checks, and where possible, wear face masks.
Now, in a series of images of its prototype pub the ‘Mossy Well’ in North London, the chain has revealed exactly what the new branches will look like.
Branches, which will be encouraging all customers to order via its free app when they open, will be spacious with signs up to maintain social distancing.
Under the proposed changes, till orders will be taken from behind a screen, disposable paper menus will replace laminated ones and floor signs will help patrons stay socially-distanced.
Warnings will be placed on walls stating “Do not arrange to meet in large groups”, while arrows will be in place to direct visitors to bar stations and washrooms.
There will be separate entry and exit doors where possible, and all drinks will be served from the base of the glass – with bar staff carrying them on a tray.
All tables will also be separated by static screens, to minimise any social contact between parties.
Meanwhile, hand sanitiser will be provided throughout the store – including at entrances.
Wetherspoons spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We have worked tirelessly. Our initial investment will ensure our pubs will be safe for staff and customers.
“Our pubs might look a bit different when they reopen, but they will be as welcoming as ever.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BPPA), said more than three quarters of pubs could reopen right away if social distancing rules were relaxed.
“If they stay at two metres, it will restrict it to just one in three,” she saidl.
“It is an internationally recognised standard of one metre, used in France, Italy and Denmark, which allows some kind of normality,” McClarkin added.
“Pubs are currently on a very highly tuned Government life-support machine.
“The longer they remain on it, and with all the other medicines they have to pay for, some won’t survive.
“Once pubs close they are very, very hard to resuscitate.”
McClarkin said that 40% of the BPPA’s members are worried they could be out of business by September.
Meanwhile a survey by Budweiser found a third of Brits plan to return to pubs in the first week of reopening.
They expect to spend an average of £27 on their first visit.
However, concerns do remain.
Half of those polled said would rather go to a pub that allowed them to order from their table using an app to reduce contact.
A further four in 10 think staff should have to wear face masks, though the Government is yet to enforce this by law.
Two thirds said hand sanitiser should be readily available and a quarter plan to steer clear of the toilets altogether.
Others will avoid visiting at peak times and half want to see numbers of customers limited.
Paula Lindenberg, at Budweiser Brewing Group, said: “It’s great to see so many Brits yearning to get back to the pub, even within the first week of them re-opening.
“But it’s not without its cautions as the research found pubgoer’s behaviours, values and expectations will shift as lockdown eases.”