The chief executive of a brewery has warned that pubs will go bankrupt if staff and customers have to keep two metres apart.
Andy Wood of Adnams brewery said the two-metre social distancing rule will make it “very difficult” for pubs to operate and suggested a reduction to one metre as long as it does not come at the expense of people’s safety.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) told the PA news agency that if the UK followed the World Health Organisation’s advice of imposing a one-metre distance it would “enable many more pubs to viably re-open and serve their communities again”.
But after concluding a review, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has advised ministers that the two-metre rule should stay.
Announcements last week about a possible reopening of the UK’s 47,000 pubs at the beginning of July offered a glimmer of hope to the industry.
But opening with the current social distancing measures would mean customers and staff would all have to stay two metres apart in the premises.
Mr Wood told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “Well I think there’s quite a bit of evidence from the pub industry that operating with two metres in terms of social distancing is going to be very difficult to operate and could lead to many bankruptcies in the pub industry.”
He added: “Clearly there’s one part of us that would like to see the two-metre distance rule reduced but that cannot be at the expense of the safety of customers, of communities and staff.
“So at the end of the day we’ve got to go with the health advice.”
Meanwhile Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, told PA that for many pubs, implementing a two-metre rule will be “impossible” and mean they are closed for much longer.
“Re-opening in July will be great for those pubs who can meet the social-distancing measures required by then.
“However, it must be recognised that no two pubs are the same and for many, ensuring a distance of two metres will be impossible, keeping them closed for much longer.
“Actioning advice from the WHO for example to use one metre for social distancing from July would enable many more pubs to viably re-open and serve their communities again.
“We stand ready to work with the Government to help pubs re-open in a safe and financially viable way as soon as possible,” she said.
Ms McClarkin added that UK’s 27,000 pubs with beer gardens should be amongst the first to re-open to “let people enjoy their local community pub’s beer garden in the summer sun”.
There are differing views on how much difference the additional one-metre makes and other countries, such as Germany, have a 1.5 metre rule instead.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), argued that “the evidence for a greater distance than one metre has always been very fragile”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “The World Health Organisation recommends a one-metre distance, Denmark has adopted it since the beginning of last week and if you probe around the recommended distances in Europe, you actually find quite a lot of other countries have gone for this.”
But Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia said “to say the evidence is strong one way or the other is actually misleading”.
“There are a lot of people at the moment, aerobiologists, actually saying well actually two metres isn’t enough,” he said.