England is braced for ‘pub-ageddon’ as bars and restaurants reopen on Super Saturday but fears of 6am mayhem were calmed with most not set to start serving until after 8am.
Landlords and staff were out at the crack of dawn readying their premises ahead of a tsunami of punters as lockdown easing kicks in.
Drinkers are set to sink a staggering 15million pints at 23,000 establishments across the country, experts predicted.
But they will be hit with hiked prices for beer, wine and cider as pubs including Wetherspoons desperately try to make up for lost business.
A&E departments have prepared for a surge in booze-fuelled patients by setting up tents outside hospitals to keep people socially distanced.
Bars were not able to throw open their doors to customers first thing because the regulations enforced their closure until 6am.
With the new coronavirus rules not published until Friday afternoon, some landlords had planned to open as soon as the clock ticked past midnight.
Landlords and staff were out at the crack of dawn readying their premises ahead of a tsunami of punters as lockdown easing kicks in. Pictured: Surrey Docks Wetherspoons in Surrey Quays, south east London
Drinkers will sink a staggering 15million pints at 23,000 establishments across the country, experts predict. Pictured: he Wheatsheaf Pub, Borough Market, central London
Despite the rules not changing until this morning for pubs, drinkers were still out in Borough Market in force last night
But Downing Street scotched the swift openings by ensuring the current ban remains in place until after sunrise. The BrewDog chain of pubs was on Friday cancelling events after the new rules were reported.
Boris Johnson urged the public not to ‘blow it’ by not behaving safely and abiding by social-distancing rules when the restrictions are eased for the hospitality industry.
The regulations signed off by Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote into law a 30-person limit on gatherings at home and outdoors in settings not deemed ‘Covid-secure’.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘The regulations also keep in place a list of premises that must remain closed and that includes nightclubs, nail bars and salons, indoor play areas, gyms, conference centres and exhibition halls.
‘Those regulations mostly come into force at 12.01am on Saturday July 4. The reopening of pubs and bars specifically comes into force at 6am. That would just be in the event anybody would attempt to try to open at midnight.’
Typical licensing conditions will still apply, so pubs can only open at the time they normally have permission for, which is rarely 6am.
Laws limiting indoor gatherings to two households and outdoor gatherings to six people have now been revoked – although Government guidance still advises these are wise precautions. The 30-person limit would prevent mass gatherings, Number 10 said.
The PM’s spokesman added: ‘The reason for setting the figure for 30 is we do have to put a number into law and that is to provide police with the powers that they need to break up a rave or some other large gathering which is clearly irresponsible and in breach of the social distancing rules.’
Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and some other venues or organised events are exempt from the 30-person limit as long as sufficient measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
The George, in Eton, Windsor, Berkshire had a staff training evening last night as they get ready to reopen their pub tomorrow
Staff at BrewDog Tower Hill last night prepared to reopen tomorrow with social distancing measures in place
Barman Michael Fitzsimons wears PPE while pouring a pint behind a protective shield at the bar, during final preparations at The Faltering Fullback pub in North London, ahead of its reopening
Wetherspoons, which is renown for selling cheap alcohol, will be increasing prices for beers, wines and spirits by 10p as it reopens 900 pubs. Most will also see meals hiked by up to 20p, but prices vary depending on where in the country.
An insider told the Sun: ‘New menus have been sent out across the country and it seems that the Wetherspoon pubs are keen to recoup money lost during the lockdown as soon as possible.
‘I think they hoped people would have forgotten what the prices were in March and this would all just slip under the radar.’
Meanwhile Samuel Smith pubs will see pint prices rocket by up to £1 as they reopen their doors. The popular Taddy Lager will shoot up from £2.30 to £3.40 per pint while Sovereign Bitter goes from £2.04 to £3.04.
The company, based in Yorkshire, has about 200 pubs that will reopen today and previously banned punters from using their phones to get people talking.
One landlord, who asked not to be named, said: ‘It’s a heck of a price hike – I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to the customers. It’s not going to make reopening after the lockdown any easier.’
The onslaught of customers is expected to see a huge surge in A&E patients over Saturday, with hospital chiefs ordering tents be set up outside some to keep social distancing.
Clinicians could triage patients outside the building to see if they needed to be in A&E or if they could be treated at home.
One doctor begged punters to take it easy as they descended on the pubs. He posted a picture in full PPE and called for people to drink responsibly.
Dr Keir Philip said on Twitter: ‘I just got dressed for the pubs reopening today. Please drink responsibly, which means not in a pub.’
Paramedic Laura Heath added: ‘Off to the pub today? If anything, be sensible and please don’t drink and drive. Working 6-6 today, choose your ride back wisely.’
Left: Dr Keir Philip said on Twitter: ‘I just got dressed for the pubs reopening today. Please drink responsibly, which means not in a pub.’ Right: Paramedic Laura Heath added: ‘Off to the pub today? If anything, be sensible and please don’t drink and drive. Working 6-6 today, choose your ride back wisely’
Dr Tom Leckie, consultant in emergency medicine, at the Royal Oldham Hospital, told the MeN: ‘We are asking the public to think carefully before attending A&E this weekend and in the coming weeks.
‘COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities and our hospital are continuing to care for sick patients both with COVID-19 and other emergency problems.
‘We have already seen an increase in attendances prior to the easing of lockdown measures this weekend. We are expecting our service to remain busier than usual which may result in delays for you if your condition is not considered an emergency.’
Officials have urged people to continue following social-distancing measures if they are to take part in team sports, with football and cricket not banned from outside spaces.
The latest laws also allow Mr Hancock to order the closure of any public outdoor space, like parks, if there is a ‘serious and imminent threat to public health’.
Fines could still be imposed for those deemed to be flouting the rules and police officers still have the power to disperse large groups.
The rules must be reviewed again before the end of the month.
Separate regulations to enforce the continued lockdown in Leicester were published on Friday.