Punters savoured early morning pints as pubs in England were allowed to reopen from 6am on “Super Saturday” after being shut for more than three months due to coronavirus.
There were queues at some pubs, including The Regal in Gloucester, where Liam Flood was first at the doors at 7.45am and ordered a Guinness 15 minutes later with just three other customers inside.
At the Buck Inn in Sadberge, Teesside, one pubgoer sipped his pint through a straw while wearing a face mask.
Punter Martin Sherrell was so excited to get back to the pub that he woke up at 5.15am before his alarm went off, and pitched up at the Berkeley in Bristol at 8am. In north London, Andrew Slawinski said first pub pint of was “like winning the [Premier] League”.
Pubs were given the green light to reopen from 6am, but many boozers waited until 8am to throw open their doors. Most didn’t see an immediate rush of customers and some chains decided to remain closed.
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The reopening has been welcomed by customers, but it comes with a stark warning of the danger pubs present in “superspreading” Covid-19 and criticism of Boris Johnson’s easing of the lockdown.
Sinking a pint at your local will be a strange experience due to Covid-19 restrictions still in place – pubgoers will be asked to give their name and contact details when they arrive, drinkers are banned from standing at the bar and staff at many venues will be wearing face masks or plastic shields. Customers may notice that prices have been hiked.
Amid fears the reopening could fuel trouble, West Midlands Labour police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said it was “very bad” timing by the government to pick a Saturday night and admitted he was “praying for rain”.
Police forces across England were planning to deploy additional patrols.
In Bristol, Mr Sherrell, 63, said he and two of his friends were the only people in The Berkeley when it opened, although staff said they were expecting many more later.
He wolfed down breakfast before ordering a bottle of Magners cider at 9am, when the pub allowed sales of booze to resume.
Mr Sherrell said he would be enjoying a few more as the day went on, adding: “I had an early night last night in preparation. I set the alarm for 6am – but I was up at 5:15am.
“I’ve barely slept since I heard the Prime Minister’s announcement that pubs could open.
“I was joking that I would have camped outside if it wasn’t raining!
“Me and my mates usually meet a couple of times a week, but we haven’t been to a Wetherspoons since March. We’ve been drinking there for years.
“There was just the three of us and three workers when it opened. I think they’re expecting more later.
“I’m being sensible about it though. We all are. I’m a full-time carer for my mum. I’ve got a mask with me.
“I’ve had a nice bottle of Magners cider – I do like them. I’ll have a couple more.”
Regulars returned for much-anticipated drinks at the Toll Gate pub in Turnpike Lane, north London.
Mr Slawinski, 54, who bought a Guinness, described his first pub pint in three months as “gorgeous”.
“It’s like winning the [Premier] League,” he said.
A range of measures have been implemented at the pub including contact tracing forms, Perspex screens and compulsory table service.
Builder Ben Clark, from Newcastle, and two friends queued outside the Briar Rose in Birmingham city centre before it reopened at 7am.
They were covered in dust after a night shift at a building site as they stood on social distancing markers.
Mr Clark, 33, told BirminghamLive: “We’ve just finished night shifts. I’ve been watching the pubs since 4am this morning, when we came and reserved our tables ready for the pub opening ready for a pint of San Miguel and a breakfast.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the reopening of pubs.
He said on Saturday: “The hospitality sector is a vital part of our economy and crucial to people’s livelihoods – Britain’s pubs and bars alone employ almost half a million people – which is why it’s such good news that so many people are able to return to work this weekend, helping us all to enjoy summer safely.”
The Prime Minister has urged drinkers not to overdo it as pubs, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, cinemas and theme parks are among the non-essential businesses given the green light to reopen from Saturday.
It is estimated 23,000 pubs would reopen and customers would sink 15 million pints from 6am after the two-metre social distancing rule was eased to one-metre plus to allow more non-essential businesses to reopen.
But one of the country’s biggest pub chains – Greene King – decided to remain shut on Saturday and carry out a phased reopening of its pubs and restaurants from Monday.
Northern Ireland allowed its pubs to reopen on Friday.
What are the new rules for pubs in England?
– Pubgoers will be asked to give their name and phone number at the door. The details is kept on record for 21 days for contact tracing purposes in case of a local breakout.
– Punters are encouraged to book tables in advance.
– Standing at the bar is banned. Some pubs will offer table service only.
– Tables will be spread apart to maintain social distancing.
– Customers are encouraged to order drink and food on an app.
– Pubs and restaurants are encouraged to use disposable menus, condiments and cutlery.
– Inside pubs, customers will be allowed to gather at a social distance in groups of six, with a maximum of two households involved.
– In pub gardens, the six-person limit will apply, however people from more than two households will be permitted to socialise.
– There is controlled access to toilets.
– Live gigs are banned and music should be played at softer levels ro discourage shouting. Punters should speak at normal volumes because loud talking can increase the risk of transmission.
– Many pubs will have hand sanitising stations at the doors.
Restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas were allowed to begin reopening from midnight, but pubs had to wait until 6am, with Downing Street fearing early morning partying.
The Prime Minister has faced questions on why pubs were being opened on a Saturday, which typically sees a higher rate of alcohol-related issues for police and the NHS.
A stark warning was issued by the top scientists advising the government on the eve of their reopening in England.
Documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) identified bars in other countries as settings for coronavirus clusters and superspreading events.
The Government scientists suggested pubs, bars and restaurants would be the types of places that close first in the event of subsequent outbreaks.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the coronavirus pandemic “is a long way from gone” as he urged the public to follow social-distancing rules under the relaxed lockdown.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of “superspreading” of Covid-19 occurring in pubs.
Stood between them at the Downing Street press conference on Friday, Mr Johnson urged the public to “enjoy summer safely” so the ailing economy can be boosted without causing the virus to spread uncontrollably.
Prof Whitty added: “None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.
“There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.
“And therefore we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”
Prof Whitty added that “there is no perfect, exact way” of easing lockdown as he discussed the balancing act being undertaken, adding: “We are going to have health problems, and economic problems, for sure.”
He applied the pressure on the public and business owners to follow the restrictions, adding that if they “do not take them seriously, the possibility of a second wave goes up sharply”.
Mr Johnson said he did not want to return to a national closure of all pubs, preferring to take more targeted measures now, but said he would “retain all measures in reserve”.
He said local lockdowns like the one imposed on Leicester would remain a “feature of our lives for some time to come”.
Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds backed the return to pubs as a boost for the economy, as she called on the Government to adopt a “targeted strategy” in extending the furlough scheme to avoid a “flood of redundancy notices”.
The Duke of Cambridge’s wish for a pint in his local after months of lockdown was granted when he visited a pub ahead of bars and restaurants reopening.
A few weeks ago William joked he was looking forward to having a drink and on Friday he was able to savour a cider when he visited the Rose and Crown in the Norfolk village of Snettisham.
The duke and his family have visited the 600-year-old pub, hotel and restaurant, which is a few miles from their home of Anmer Hall, and William returned to show his support for Britain’s hospitality industry on the eve of customers returning.
After following health protocols and sanitising his hands with gel he asked landlords Anthony and Jeannette Goodrich: “Can I have a pint of cider please? I’m a cider man,” ordering a £4.15 pint of Aspall Suffolk Draught Cyder and a plate of chips.
The duke took a seat in the pub’s garden with the landlords, their head chef Philip Milner and duty manager Lucy Heffer, and when his drink and food arrived he joked: “I don’t know where I pay, I’ll do that before I leave, I promise.”
Rain and drizzle could dampen the spirits of people returning to pubs and restaurants in England as venues reopen following the coronavirus lockdown.
Some people may be looking to head out to their favourite local hotspots, which have been shut for almost four months during the Covid-19 pandemic, but outbreaks of rain or drizzle are “likely in places”, the Met Office said.
Forecaster Craig Snell said “it will be a quite cloudy and damp day for many of us”, especially across the north and west – and it will turn windy towards the end of the day across parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Despite the cloud, it will still be quite humid in the south and temperatures may reach 22C, Mr Snell continued.
He said: “For those in the west or the north west, they are certainly going to need a raincoat or an umbrella as there will be some rain around.
“Even in some eastern areas, we could not say it is going to be completely dry, but anyone living in East Anglia or maybe parts of Yorkshire probably has a best (chance) of staying dry, compared to the rest of the country.”
Mr Jamieson said police are “praying for rain” on Saturday as pubs and clubs stage a cautious reopening.
He said while he thought people would “use good sense”, it was “very bad” timing by the Government to pick a Saturday night.
He added: “The Chief Constable and I often meet in the summer, we often have a discussion about the weekends.
“It is the case that when the weather is inclement, the problems we have are somewhat reduced.
“So we are praying for rain this Saturday.”