Young’s has said it plans to reopen its pubs by August but could open beer gardens and larger sites as soon as next month.
The London-based pub group said it “expects” to have opened its pubs by August 3, having shut all its 276 sites in March due to the Government-mandated lockdown.
The Government has said that pubs will open no earlier than June 4, although hospitality firms are calling for greater clarity on when current restrictions are set to unwind.
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the pub company, said it is “absolutely vital” that social distancing measures decrease from two metres to one metre when restrictions relax.
There is talk about a ‘new normal’ and new types of pubs, but I don’t think customers want thatPatrick Dardis, chief executive
He said Young’s pubs would only be able to serve up to 40% of their capacity with current distancing restrictions, but this would increase to about 70% if the Government moved to one metre, in line with guidance in France and Germany.
Young’s said it will put thorough cleaning and sanitisation measures in place and will initially take orders from customers’ tables.
However, Mr Dardis firmly rejected suggestions that pubs and customer habits will change permanently after the lockdown lifts.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” he told PA. “There is talk about a ‘new normal’ and new types of pubs, but I don’t think customers want that.
“It’s obvious that people are clamouring to get back to pubs, and I think that, with one metre distancing, we’ll be able to safely serve that demand.
“At the minute, there have been people serving customers takeaway pints and they’ve been drinking outside, but that can cause its own problems.
“They can’t use the pub toilets so they go wherever they can, they drink in the parks and then that can take up police time unnecessarily. We feel it makes more sense to be patient.”
The update came as the pub group said that total revenues rose by 2.6% to £311.6 million for the year to March 30, despite sales taking a hit of roughly £13 million due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, pre-tax profits decreased to £29.1 million for the year, from £39.5 million a year earlier.
Mr Dardis said: “I am proud of the performance of our business this year despite the unique challenges that we have faced.
“These results demonstrate the continued strength of our strategy of operating a differentiated, premium and well-invested pub estate.
“We are confident with the steps we have taken to safeguard our business from the immediate threat of coronavirus.
“The board expects the business to be in a position to return to profitable growth when this unprecedented period is at an end and conditions allow, and we remain confident in our proven strategy.”
Last week, the company said it expected “lower sales” when its sites reopen, as it told shareholders it would not pay them a dividend for the past year.
Shares in the company moved 0.9% lower at 1,140p in early trading.