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Pubs and Restaurants Will Be ‘Last to Exit’ Coronavirus Lockdown

Senior cabinet minster Michael Gove confirms a phased withdrawal from COVID-19 restrictions

U.K. coronavirus lockdown will reopen restaurants and pubs like London restaurant St. John last, says Michael Gove Michaël Protin/Eater London

Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove has confirmed that pubs, restaurants, and bars will be among the last businesses to come out of lockdown, as the government indicated the U.K. will begin to enter a phased withdrawal from full lockdown as the peak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) begins to flatten.

Speaking in west London yesterday, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster denied reports that schools would be reopening on the 11 May, but did suggest that the hospitality industry would be among the sectors most impacted by the timeframe according to which measures will be relaxed.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr if whether pubs and restaurants would be open before “the winter,” Gove said: “We want to make sure we make a balanced judgment about which restrictions can be relaxed at what time.” Gove added that “it was true” areas of hospitality will be among the last to exit the lockdown.

As the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality said on Friday, the question for the industry is less about when but increasingly more about how restaurants and hospitality businesses recover in the age of new forms of social distancing and restrictions on access to spaces that are fundamentally dependent on socialising and social proximity.

“We also want to ensure the economic life of the nation, the social life of the nation, can return over time, but even as some restrictions are lifted [businesses and institutions] will change as a result of what we know about this virus and what we know about social distancing,” Gove said.

Full lockdown will be in place until “at least” 7 May, when the government has said it will again review the measures. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from COVID-19 at Chequers, said that ministers will weigh impacts on public health and the economy before any measures are relaxed.

The restaurant and hospitality industries continue to pressure the government for interventions which will support them in the short-term: a further extension to the Job Retention (furlough) Scheme, which protects its employees, and a long-term rent holiday which safeguards businesses against its most significant fixed cost.