Wigan beer scene sounds cautious note on July 4 pubs re-opening

The news from the Government has been welcomed but a number of concerns remain.
Beer being served by a bartender wearing PPE. Picture by PABeer being served by a bartender wearing PPE. Picture by PA
Beer being served by a bartender wearing PPE. Picture by PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that hospitality venues would all be able to welcome customers back through the doors from July 4.

However, it will be table service only and there should be minimal contact between staff and customers.

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Pubs will also be expected to take customers' details to help test and trace teams if there is a local Covid-19 outbreak.

Tony Callaghan, owner of Inn The BarTony Callaghan, owner of Inn The Bar
Tony Callaghan, owner of Inn The Bar

In addition social distancing can be reduced from two metres to "one-metre-plus" if sufficient mitigation is done. This could include wearing face coverings, sitting people side to side rather than face to face to reduce transmission and increased use of hand sanitiser.

Wigan's publicans, brewers and ale enthusiasts were keen, in the wake of the announcement, to encourage responsible behaviour and following the guidelines to ensure the re-opening is successful.

There are also a number of question marks over people heading back to their local for a pint and the viability of the sector, particularly for small independent venues.

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Tony Callaghan, the owner of Inn The Bar which has 11 venues across the borough, said: "We have to be very cautious coming out of lockdown. We have got to make sure it's safe for everybody.

"The decisions made are sensible for us to get moving but our British culture is standing, vertical drinking. The problem we envisage is that people have been drinking like that for many years and the onus will be put on publicans to carry out the Government's wishes. These are recommendations, not legislation.

"It's great that we can get businesses open and people back working but if smaller operators can't get the volume of people in it could be the kiss of death.

"We've bought PPE, we've got face coverings and rubber gloves, and we've got all the systems in place.

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"People are going to have to be responsible adults when they go out."

Mr Callaghan said it was his intention to have all of Inn The Bar's venues open on July 4.

However, award-winning Wigan Central, located in the arches underneath Wigan North Western railway station, said it is looking at a more gradual re-opening.

Changes being made include the development of an ordering app for the pub.

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Prospect Inns director Patsy Slevin said: "We have plans in place that already comply with all the guidelines but we might not open immediately on July 4. We might take a little longer to ensure we have systems in place.

"We're going to make it as friendly as we possibly can. As it says on our website, when we do re-open it's going to be epic."

However, Mrs Slevin did criticise the amount of notice the industry had been given by ministers.

She said: "Breweries need at least three weeks to have beer that's ready. We will be able to get hold of beer because some breweries are still brewing but it's unfair on those who have shut down to say you can re-open all of a sudden 10 days before.

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"It plays into the big boys' hands and is unfair on the little guys."

Wigan Camra also emphasised the role the public will have to play in making the re-opening work and said there are definitely positive and negative points to be considered around re-opening.

Vice-chair and pubs officer Stephen Mears said: "We welcome this announcement and it is good news that the social distancing rules have been relaxed.

"We would encourage everybody to act sensibly. If we all follow the guidelines it should work. It is going to be different and some people might be put off or find it strange.

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"Many pubs in Wigan are the hub of their community and people rely on pubs for their social life, especially those who live on their own.

"Hospitality is a huge industry and this has had a massive effect on bar staff, waiters, cleaners and all the other people who work in it.

"There are concerns among landlords about buying beer and then running at a loss if they don't get enough customers through the door and about having to police social distancing rules.

"Some people also feel their hand is being forced, and if they don't re-open now they will never open again."