By Callum Keown
The long wait for a pint in the pub will soon be over and Brits will finally be able to return to their favorite restaurants, get a haircut, stay in a hotel and go to the movies.
Pubs and restaurants in the U.K. will reopen in early July, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the biggest easing of lockdown measures so far on Tuesday.
Johnson said hotels, cinemas, museums, hairdressers and places of worship will also be allowed to open on July 4, provided they can “do so safely.” However, nightclubs, indoor gyms and swimming pools will remain closed.
The controversial two-meter social distancing rule — longer than the World Health Organization’s one-meter advice — has also been relaxed to “one meter-plus,” while two households will be able to meet from early July, and overnight stays in hotels and other accommodation will be allowed.
“Today we can say our national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and our shops. The bustle is starting to come back and a new, but cautious, optimism is palpable,” Johnson said in Parliament. He added that each step was reversible and urged people to use common sense and follow the guidelines. In another key development, Johnson said that the rules around coronavirus would no longer be legislation but downgraded to guidance.
Pub stocks rose on Tuesday as investors welcomed the announcement, with JD Wetherspoon /zigman2/quotes/209658419/delayed UK:JDW -0.27% , Marston’s /zigman2/quotes/203821737/delayed UK:MARS -0.38% , Mitchells & Butler /zigman2/quotes/209008939/delayed UK:MAB 0.00% and City Pub Group /zigman2/quotes/210522456/delayed UK:CPC -3.37% all making strong gains before slipping back. Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group /zigman2/quotes/207518837/delayed UK:RTN -6.08% also climbed. Low-cost hotel operator Whitbread /zigman2/quotes/207954631/delayed UK:WTB -0.72% rose along with Cineworld /zigman2/quotes/206525056/delayed UK:CINE +1.23% — the world’s second-largest cinema operator.
Reopening pubs, restaurants and other venues on July 4 was always part of the plan, but Tuesday’s announcement that the two-meter distancing rule will be relaxed has come as a pleasant surprise to the hospitality sector and investors.
Johnson explained that the rule could be relaxed to one-meter where two meters isn’t possible, provided venues implement mitigation measures, including reducing the number of people indoors and removing face-to-face seating.
Pub and hospitality trade groups had urged the government to halve the distance to protect businesses and millions of jobs. The British Beer and Pub Association said cutting the distance to one meter would increase the number of pubs able to reopen, from one-third to three-quarters of the U.K.’s 47,000 pubs.