Boris Johnson last night urged Britons to ‘behave responsibly’ as thousands of pubs, shops and restaurants reopen for the first time in months.
The Prime Minister hailed a ‘major step forward in our roadmap to freedom’ and an opportunity to ‘get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed’.
Shops, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons can all open today for the first time since the latest lockdown began at the start of this year. In many parts of the country they have been shut since at least December.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes can also reopen but only to serve customers outdoors. Analysts have predicted today’s reopening could spark a spending boom of as much as £4.5billion this week.
However, industry body UKHospitality predicted that only a third of venues have enough outdoor space to make it worth reopening today.
Lesleigh Mason prepares tables at The Terrace Cafe and Bar in Plymouth, Devon, ahead of the company’s reopening tomorrow
Indoor socialising remains banned until at least May 17.
Government scientists remain concerned that today’s unlocking could spark a surge in Covid cases which have been in decline for months.
A serious spike could delay more steps in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
In his statement last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘Today is a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom as venues such as shops, hairdressers, nail salons, outdoor attractions, and pubs and restaurants open once again.
‘I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed.
‘I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember “hands, face, space and fresh air” to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.’
As well as pubs, shops, gyms and hairdressers, outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks can reopen, as can libraries and community centres. Weddings will also be able to inch back towards normality with gatherings of up to 15 guests allowed to go ahead, instead of the previous limit of six.
Self-catering accommodation, including campsites and second homes, can also be used – allowing people to stay overnight away from home for the first time since the lockdown began.
Harriet Henry, manager of The Tea Room in Knutsford, hangs an open sign outside her cafe, as she prepares to welcome back customers
Hotels and B&Bs remain closed, and there is still a ban on spending a night at someone else’s home. Social distancing rules also remain in place, meaning that those who meet in pubs and restaurants can only gather in groups of a maximum of six or two households.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said today’s partial reopening was ‘incredibly positive’ for a sector which has lost £80billion and seen 12,000 venues close for good during the last year.
But she warned that only 40 per cent of venues have useable outdoor space, and only a third have enough to make reopening worthwhile at this stage.
Rhys Meakin, owner of Shredz Fitness Centre in Swadlincote, Derbyshire prepares the gym for are-opening
Profitability would not be restored until all social distancing rules have been dropped – which is not due until at least June 21, and which may rely on the introduction of controversial Covid passports.
Miss Nicholls told the BBC: ‘When businesses do reopen they are not going to be trading profitably because of social distancing. Until we get those restrictions lifted we are going to be trading under a long shadow.’
In an attempt to stimulate spending and avoid overcrowding, the Government will allow shops to open until 10pm six days a week.
A requirement to complete council paperwork to open after 7pm will be scrapped. Clothes shops can also reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.
Land of hops and glory: Pubs and shops throw open their doors at last
By Tom Witherow Business Correspondent
Up and down the land, shopkeepers were adding the finishing touches to their stores, landlords were testing their beer and restaurants were stocking their kitchens.
Yesterday’s frenzy of preparation was all for today – dubbed the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ – when beer gardens, shops, hairdressers and gyms will join libraries, zoos and nail salons in reopening.
The vaccine programme coupled with the ‘palpable sense of excitement’ is expected to make this post-lockdown reopening the strongest yet, experts said. Customers are predicted to spend £4.5billion this week.
More than half of hospitality businesses that are opening have splashed out to make outdoor areas bigger, spending an average of £9,040 on each venue, according to industry group UKHospitality.
Pubs have been flooded with bookings, with the British Beer and Pub Association predicting the nation will get through 15million pints this week. For many venues it will be the first revenue since England’s January 5 lockdown.
The unpredictable weather remained the number one worry. Henry Cripps, from the Three Oaks pub in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, said: ‘We realise that almost everything for the next five weeks is weather dependent so we have everything crossed for sun. We couldn’t wait to see our regulars, so we have invested heavily in our garden.’
Some restrictions have eased since pubs were last open. Customers will not need to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and there will be no 10pm curfew. But Boris Johnson has postponed his planned celebratory pint because of Prince Philip’s death on Friday.
However, a green group has warned the rush to drink and dine outdoors will cause a spike in air pollution from gas burning patio heaters. Oliver Lord, of Environmental Defence Fund Europe, said: ‘We need to support the hospitality sector to bounce back safely and use electric heaters, which are far cleaner and more efficient.’
Hairdressers are also booked up for weeks. Joanna Hansford, 46, who runs a high-end salon in Mayfair with her mother Jo, has 2,000 clients booked in for April and was opening at 5am this morning. She said: ‘We’re very excited, it’s been a long lockdown and it has been a lot tougher.’