Wetherspoon is to open beer gardens, rooftop gardens and patios at 394 of its pubs in England when the lockdown continues to ease from April 12, the company has announced.
The pubs will be open from 9am to 9pm from Sunday to Thursday and 9am to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, although some will have restrictions on closing times.
They will offer a slightly reduced menu, with food available from 9am to 8pm seven days a week.
Other pubs will also be allowed to start offering food and drink to punters sitting outdoors from April 12, although only table service is permitted.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin – seen in October 2020 – has repeatedly spoken about the need for pubs to reopen as soon as possible
Customers will be able to order and pay through the Wetherspoon app, and staff will be able to take orders and payment at the table.
The pubs will not be operating a booking system.
Customers will be able to enter the pubs to gain access to the outside areas and use toilets, while test and trace will be in operation and hand sanitisers will be available.
Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: ‘We are looking forward to welcoming our customers and staff back to our pubs.’
Pubs and restaurants in England will be able to serve customers outdoors from April 12 as part of the road map out of the lockdown which has devastated the hospitality sector.
Nearly 30,000 pubs could stay shut in April
Nearly two thirds of pubs in the UK will remain closed even if they allowed to do outdoor service, an industry association has warned.
The British Beer & Pub Association say a reduction in coronavirus rules in April may not save an estimate 60% of pubs, equivalent to 29,000.
BBPA leaders want pubs to be able to re-open fully in tandem with any relaxation in non-essential retail.
It reckons just 17% of pubs will open and even they will struggle.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: ‘This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5bn when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering.’
It came as sales of alcohol per adult dropped by 6% in the early part of lockdown, a new study has shown.
Research by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow found the drop in Scotland as well as England and Wales between mid-March and July 11 last year.
Wetherspoon has 875 pubs in the UK, including 750 in England.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman confirmed that pubs would be allowed to serve drinks people outside last week.
But drinkers sitting in beer gardens will still have to order booze to their tables, because queuing at the bar will be banned.
The news will be a boost to pubs without gardens, who risked being left out of the early summer rush.
The hated – and widely derided curfew and ‘substantial meal’ rules – will not return after lockdown.
The Prime Minister declared ‘the scotch egg debate will be over’ in reference to the food regulation, which was mocked after ministers said the small snack was a meal.
But industry leaders warn that the ‘cautious approach’ may not be enough to save the trade.
The British Beer & Pub Association warned only last week how nearly 30,000 pubs could be forced to remain shut until a full reopening, with punters allowed inside venues.
This would mean around two thirds of pubs may not be able to reopen.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: ‘We’d hoped our pubs would open – indoors and out – for Easter and alongside essential retail.
‘Instead, they are going to remain closed for far longer. This will mean they miss out on vital trade and communities will miss out on seeing each other, safely, in their local this Easter.
‘Given the cautious approach the Government has decided to take in reopening our pubs, they must now support them and, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, not pull the rug out from underneath.
‘Extensions and increases to the furlough scheme and grants are going to be necessary, as well as the VAT cut and Business Rates holiday – plus a beer duty cut.’
Earlier Tory MPs and pub industry leaders had demanded Mr Johnson move quicker to open venues before Easter.
Former Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, said he is calling on Boris Johnson to ‘review’ the opening dates for pubs.
Wetherspoon’s pub – the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate – which measuring nearly 11,000 square feet and has an enormous beer garden
He tweeted: ‘The hospitality sector is a very big employer of the poorest in society, who have suffered most in the crisis, and half of those businesses are talking about closing.
I’ve asked Boris Johnson to review again the dates for reopening up the inside of pubs and restaurants.’
The COVID Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers were already unsatisfied with details of the PM’s roadmap to recovery briefed over the weekend.
At least 40 MPs led by the CRG’s Mark Harper and Steve Baker told him to speed up the process.
MP Tim Loughton questioned why pubs were not opening earlier.
He said: ‘Good news on schools, care homes and outdoor sport but surely we can open pub gardens up in time for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend and not keep wedding couples waiting until May 17th even for a slimmed down event?’