England’s publicans, and most likely the emergency services, will be bracing themselves for ‘Super Saturday’, when pubs alongside other parts of the hospitality industry will be allowed to reopen to customers, possibly as early as 6am.
There are already predictions that the day will be met by a swarm of (hopefully socially distanced) punters clamouring for a pint, with analysts estimating that pubs could enjoy a £210mln spending splurge over the weekend alongside a 32% jump in sales compared to the average pre-coronavirus weekend.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a third of adults will return to pubs within a week, despite many people remaining cautious over public spaces.
However, drinkers looking to return to the local will not be faced with the boozer they remember, as social distancing guidelines have forced them to implement policies designed to keep patrons at least one metre apart.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW), which saw its boss Tim Martin initially oppose the closing of pubs before being forced to do so during the lockdown, has said it will be introducing a ‘one in, one out’ rule at its branches to prevent crowding, as well as hand sanitiser stations at entrances.
The group will also be asking customers to hand over contact details every time they visit to help with the NHS’s track and trace efforts to prevent fresh outbreaks of coronavirus, although this won’t be a legal requirement.
Two elements include ordering via phone apps and contactless payments, however, patrons will most likely be used to these as ‘Spoons’ has accepted app orders since 2017.
Other regulations introduced are the banning of smoking at pub entrances and exits, keeping children seated at tables and the introduction of disposable menus.
Meanwhile, and perhaps one of the new policies likely to cause the most disquiet among certain clientele, Wetherspoons pubs will not be showing any sporting events over the month of July.
The company has also spent £11mln to help set up its pubs to operate safely within the guidelines, while extra staff have also been brought in at certain branches to help to clean and disinfect pubs.
Other pub chains have also unveiled their own reopening plans ahead of Super Saturday, although the pace at which each firm is throwing its doors looks set to be varied.
In an update on Friday, Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC (LON:FSTA), which operates around 400 pubs, said it will only be reopening 27 of its branches on Saturday, and that the rest of the estate will reopen in groups across the rest of July.
READ: Fuller's opts for cautious reopening schedule on 'Super Saturday', delays results release again
The company added that by the end of July over 80% of its managed pubs and hotels will have reopened, while its tenanted pubs are also expected to be open again during the month.
Others, such as All Bar One and Harvesters owner Mitchells & Butlers PLC (LON:MAB) which runs over 1,700 pubs and bars, also expected to have the majority of their operation up and running by the end of the month.
The company is likely hoping that its UK operation will see similar results to its German business, Alex, which reopened in mid-May to encouraging sales growth.
However, while pubs and patrons alike will be breathing a sigh of relief that the worst has passed, capacity restrictions incurred by social distancing and the looming possibility of a second wave of infections and possibly another lockdown will continue to haunt many over the coming months.
Shares in Wetherspoons were 0.4% lower at 1.,054p in mid-afternoon trading on Friday, while Fuller’s dipped 0.3% to 756p and Mitchells dropped 3.6% to 185.7p.