Landlords across the UK are today making final checks and preparations for the future of drinking, ahead of welcoming punters back to their pubs as early as 6am tomorrow.
Thousands of revellers are expected to make their way to watering holes – as well as restaurants and hairdressers – in a day being dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, but the ‘new normal’ is set to be quite a different experience.
Pub bosses have had to make a myriad of changes to ensure their venues are ‘Covid-secure’ and as safe as possible for customers to enjoy their first pint in nearly four months.
New measures include asking drinkers to make orders from their table, often via a mobile app, rather than at the bar, installing protective screens at tills and between tables, face masks and gloves for staff and floor markings to help enforce social distancing.
Today, staff up and down the nation have been seen rolling out beer barrels, cleaning surfaces and sticking up clear guidance to ensure they are fully prepared for the much-anticipated reopening.
It marks another big step in Britain’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis, following the reopening of non-essential shops last month.
However, while plenty have expressed excitement over their return, many others have revealed they will stay home instead, with gloomy weather and fears of increased risk of infection among people’s concerns.
Beer barrels arrive at the Windsor Castle pub in South Kensington, west London, ahead of pubs reopening tomorrow
Sylvester Kowalczk wipes down the bar as he prepares the Ship and Whale pub for welcoming back punters tomorrow
Signs are put in place reminding customers of the importance of social distancing at the Chandos Arms pub in London
Beer is delivered this morning at The Cricketers, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, Essex before the big reopening tomorrow
Landlady Hannah Last, 28, of the Welcome Inn in Eastleigh, Hampshire cleans the pub sign in readiness for the reopening
Screens have been installed between tables at the Atlas bar in Manchester as part of measures to ensure social distancing
Beer barrels are being delivered to venues up and down the country today to ensure they are well stocked for the anticipated rush
Many venues are being encouraged to set up outdoor tables and seating where possible to limit the spread of coronavirus
The Horseshoe Pub in Hampstead receives its stock of Camden Beer, which will be served to returning punters tomorrow
Venues, which Downing Street said today can open from 6am tomorrow, have had to put a range of new measures in place before opening the doors to drinkers once more.
Many pubs will be welcoming customers via a booking system, with two or three-hour reservation slots available.
Punters will not be allowed to order at the bar, only from their table, with different groups spaced at least one metre apart, strictly-enforced queueing systems and one-way arrows on the floor.
Groups of more than two households are banned but you can meet up in groups of six if dining outdoors.
Venues that were previously indoor-only have invested in picnic tables and outdoor garden lighting, while some have put up marquees and even plastic dining ‘bubbles’.
Ordering and paying will be cash free and customers will have to leave full contact details with the venue for 21 days for tracing purposes.
Furthermore, cutlery and condiments won’t be laid out on tables, while some venues are even suggesting customers bring their own.
Menus will also be limited and there will be no live music.
Boris Johnson said he wanted Britons to use the loosening of lockdown to ‘enjoy summer’, but insisted the success of the move is down to whether people act ‘responsibly’, urging the public not to ‘let down’ the sectors of the economy that desperately need to reopen safely.
Mr Johnson made the appeal in an LBC radio phone-in this morning as a poll by ITVs Good Morning Britain (GMB) showed nearly 90 per cent of voters are dubbing tomorrow ‘Stupid Saturday’ instead of ‘Super Saturday’.
Tables are being wiped down by staff to ensure venues are as clean and hygienic as possible before tomorrow’s reopening
Staff clean and arrange tables outside the Wheatsheaf Pub, Borough Market this morning, with many customers being encouraged to enjoy the return outside if possible
Tables are arranged for social distancing at the Chandos Arms pub in London earlier today, with floor markings also laid down
Staff were all smiles at the Horseshoe in Hampstead, north London, this morning as they received their order of beer barrels
Staff at the Ship and Whale pub measure out two metre distances and lay down stickers for customers to abide by
A worker unpacks dozens of beer barrels, thousands of which are likely to be used across the country tomorrow, outside South Kensington’s Windsor Castle pub
A member of staff paints a sign at the front of St Christopher’s Inn Pub in on Borough High Street informing customers of its return
The front of Roebuck pub, in Borough, is decorated before welcoming back thirsty and hungry customers tomorrow
Hand sanitiser will be available for customers to use in many venues, with signage reminding them of its importance
Staff take a delivery of beer barrels at The Cricketers pub in Chelmsford, Essex this morning ahead of tomorrow’s reopening
‘Al fresco’ dining and drinking has been a key component of getting venues ready to reopen over the last few weeks
Are Kjetil Kolltveit put clear signs in place instructing customers on social distancing at the Chandos Arms pub in London
Speaking in a phone-in on LBC radio this morning, Boris Johnson said he wanted people to use the loosening of lockdown in England from tomorrow to ‘enjoy summer’
A poll by ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) shows that nearly 90 per cent of voters are choosing to dub ‘Super Saturday’ as ‘Stupid Saturday instead’
Social media users appear far from excited about pubs in England reopening, with many tweeting they will keep clear of boozers tomorrow.
While some want to stay away from the possible ‘carnage’, others are concerned about a potential rise in cases of Covid-19.
The British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality, the London Night Czar and the National Police Chiefs’ Council have also urged drinkers to ‘act responsibly’ this weekend, and respect social distancing.
The public’s wish to get back to the pub, eat out or have a family holiday could inject £3.8billion into the economy within a week of lockdown easing, research indicated.
A survey of more than 2,000 adults by jobs site Caterer.com showed two out of three were keen to support local hospitality businesses as soon as possible.
But revellers face a washout as forecasters warn up to two inches of rain in some parts, with strong winds moving in from the west of the country throughout the day.
It has raised fears drinkers will seek refuge from the storms inside and break social distancing rules.
Infection rates for the deadly virus are believed to be significantly higher in indoor spaces.
A spokesman from JD Wetherspoon, which plans to reopen all 750 of its venues on Saturday, said: ‘The weather is out of our control, but our pubs tend to be three times larger than others so we are not worried about people being inside our venues.
‘We can’t predict what the weather will be like in England, but we have faith that our customers and staff will be as safe as possible.’
A member of staff at The Althorp by Wandsworth Common wears PPE as she approaches customers
Bar staff will be delivering drinks to tables, as seen above at a Greene King in Cambridge, when pubs reopen on Super Saturday
A spokesman for Stonegate Pubs, which owns The Slug and Lettuce chain, which is also reopening, said: ‘Throughout our pubs and bars, we are implementing clear, safe socialising measures both inside and across our outside spaces.
‘We are encouraging customers to pre-book and all bookings work on a time-limit which enables us to manage capacity and customer expectation.
‘Should the weather be inclement, we will work with our customers on a common-sense approach, accommodating where we can those that have had to move from outside areas.
‘Most customers are likely to check the weather and be prepared for the expected short spells of rain or drizzle.’
Yet some bars are set to remain shut, with, some publicans on Tyneside deciding not to open up this weekend, saying they are not yet ready to operate safely.
In Sunderland bars including Ttonic, Chaplins, The Point, Glitter Ball and Arizona will remain shut.
Their management team wrote: ‘We are concerned that the mass gatherings and intensity expected on Saturday isn’t worth putting our team under unnecessary risk and stress.
‘Our safety, your safety and to protect the emergency services from unnecessary duress we think is paramount and the responsible thing to do in our much loved City.
‘We will not be opening until further notice and remain closed this weekend. Please understand our decision for now, we must protect our staff and the people in our City.
‘Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause for your weekend plans we hope everyone stays alert, safe and practices social distancing as outlined by the Government.’
Meanwhile, experts warned medical staff were ‘bracing themselves’ for an influx of patients when pubs throw open their doors.
Dr Katherine Henderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today this week: ‘It actually is quite serious, we have emergency departments having to work in a very different way than they did before because we have to keep vulnerable patients safe so we can’t have crowded emergency departments.
‘What we can’t do is have a department that gets overwhelmed by people who are injured because they have got themselves into a fight, they have fallen off something, they have drunk so much that they actually need the health service’s help.
‘People have been standing at doorways clapping the NHS, well more important than clapping the NHS is using the resources responsibly and anybody who goes out and gets so drunk that they need an ambulance and they need to come to an emergency department is not supporting the NHS.’