For most of the past twelve months we’ve been wondering when restaurants will reopen again, and now – three lockdowns deep – we’re feeling more impatient than ever.
Finally, on the 22 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a ‘road map’ for how England would transition out of lockdown and get back to normal in the coming weeks and months. This announcement was made to The House of Commons and currently only applies to England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their own easing of restrictions autonomously.
While the road map is subject to change, at the moment, here are the two key dats for when restaurants will open in London and the rest of England which we've detailed below.
When will restaurants reopen across the UK and in London?
It has been announced in the most recent roadmap that restaurants, bars and pubs will be able to reopen after Easter. The following dates were correct at the time of writing, but the Prime Minister has made it clear that these could change.
• 12 April 2021: Outdoor hospitality to reopen
• 17 May 2021: Indoor hospitality to reopen
Before the official announcement there was a leak published by The Sunday Times that also estimated restaurants wouldn't reopen fuully until May. The quote was thought to have come from an anonymous Downing Street source, who supposedly said “The May Day Bank Holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening”. This news came as restaurants have been forced to close for the majority of the past year, with weeks on end of lockdowns impacting opening hours and curtailing the possibility of dine-in offerings.
Will Bowlby, who owns and runs Indian restaurant Kricket, has previously labelled a reopening date of May as “a devastating prospect," going on to say: "The longer the restaurants are shut, the more casualties there will be. This potential extension will only cripple further businesses that are already skating on thin ice."
Uncertainty still remains as to what ‘reopening’ really means however, with owners and chef proprietors having had to ‘pivot’ several times over the last year in order to meet the various restrictions. While the 'substantial meal' has been scrapped, perhaps it could be that groups are restricted to eating with their household only.
Once the hospitality industry is able reopen in full, many hope that it will signal an end to the yo-yo rules which have seen bars and restaurants routinely opening and closing in correlation to spikes in infection rates. Despite expressing that he wants to get back to business as soon as possbile, Blacklock's founder Gordon Ker describes the roadmap as "crucial".
"From a business perspective, I’d rather remain in a longer lockdown if it means avoiding the stop-start pain - the effect this has on our people and the business as a whole is really very damaging." He adds.
With such unpredictability surrounding the upcoming reopening of restaurants across the UK, a representative for the industry is more important than ever. Chefs such as Angela Hartnett, Jason Atherton and Tom Kerridge have been petitioning for a Minister for Hospitality, which was debated in Parliament last month, with MPs voting in support of the motion. While there will be no direct action from the debate in the immediate future, it is hoped that in the coming months there will be a new voice for the sector across policymaking.
For now, if you'd like to support your favourite local restaurant, you can order a meal kit from them or have some of their signature cocktails delivered.