One metre Social Distancing allows 9 in 10 UK pubs to re-open

Research conducted amongst its members by the British Institute of Innkeeping as part of its second survey of over 8,500 members, the majority of whom are licensees of pubs, found that 9% of respondents had already made redundancies while 91% of them had furloughed staff.


Reducing Social Distancing to one metre means that only one in 10 pubs would be unable to re-open.

Reducing Social Distancing to one metre means that only one in 10 pubs would be unable to re-open.

Of these 66% had furloughed all their staff and 32% were still considering making redundancies. 65% would make redundancies if they’d to contribute to furlough while their business remained closed.

97% of respondents had been unsuccessful in claiming for Business Interruption from their insurance companies.

Some 35% of respondents believed that their staff wouldn’t feel confident returning to work.

“We’ve started to have Zoom calls with staff to discuss concerns,” said one, “My opinion is that if by the time we open they are confident in what is in place they will pass that on to the customers.”

One village local was even organising tours with regulars to show the changes being made and how it will work upon re-opening.

Many also believed that they were looking at an increase in staff, with one respondent commenting, “We’d have to have extra staff/door staff to man the entrances/exits and toilets, it will be costly and we’re not convinced the trade we will receive will actually cover those costs.”

With Social Distancing at two metres as originally set out, one in four pubs reckoned that they could not re-open. Of those pubs that could re-open, 82% would do so at less than 50% of turnover and 97% reckoned this would be at less than 75% of turnover.

Reducing Social Distancing to one metre means that only one in 10 pubs would be unable to re-open. The other nine would have greatly reduced turnovers and the vast majority would still not be profitable.

The survey also found 65% of respondents to be somewhat confident or very confident that they could provide a safe environment for staff and customers at one metre Social Distancing.

The main concerns of publicans arising from the survey were:


  • Managing customers’ Social Distancing (each other & staff)    85%
  • Toilets, including corridors                                                                   77%
  • Managing maximum customers numbers                                     64%
  • Staff safely working in back of house areas                                     53%
  • Renewed cleaning routines                                                                 29%

As for re-opening concerns among the BII membership:

  • Profitability                                                                                           87%
  • Consumer confidence                                                                       78%
  • Physical changes to their pub                                                         68%
  • Restocking timescales/levels                                                            41%
  • Restocking costs                                                                                  38% 



The toilets will have a dedicated member managing lavatories in 10% of cases, according to the survey while 84% will use signage to direct customer behaviour. 75% will make hand sanitiser available inside & outside the toilets.

Takeaways and community services

The survey found 28% of BII respondents now offer a food & drink takeaway delivery/collection service while 6% offer grocery collection/delivery.

“Many pubs will struggle to open at all, having traditional pub environments not designed for social distancing,” commented BII Chief Executive Steven Alton, “Whilst a number of other pubs have been able to diversify their businesses and offer takeaways, deliveries and other services to local customers, the majority have made very little money through these activities but were keen to contribute to their communities during lockdown.”

Molly Davis, Head of Communications at the BII, told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Whilst we gathered the results of the survey in early June, nothing has materially changed for our members since then as we had framed questions around both 2m and 1m distances. The key for our pubs is space, staffing and risk management and for that 1 in 10 pubs that have said they can’t open at 1m all three of those factors are at play.

“We are continuing to call on Government for further financial support for our sector so that those that can’t re-open can keep their businesses in hibernation for long enough to be able to open again soon.”

Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free