A pub boss has created a prototype aimed at enabling punters to safely enjoy a post-lockdown pint.
Guided by the coronavirus 2m social distancing rule, the revamped layout at the Betsey Wynne in Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire, sees the return of the “snug”, albeit reinvented with tables separated by glazed screens.
Customers will use disposable menus and place their order using a phone app.
They will also be reminded to keep their hands clean with gel dispensers throughout the premises, while a one-way system with a separate entrance and exit has been designed to curb contact.
Peter Borg-Neal, founder and chief executive of Oakman Inns which owns the pub told Sky News he hopes the measures could be used as a blueprint for when bars and restaurants are given the green light to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.
Based on the current government roadmap for easing the lockdown, this would be 4 July at the earliest.
The industry has been hard-hit by the coronavirus restrictions, with hospitality chiefs warning that thousands of pubs and restaurants may not survive if they are forced to remain shut for much longer.
Mr Borg-Neal, whose group has 28 pubs, told Sky News: “There’s two key priorities. Number one to protect employees and number two to protect customers.
“We have studied all the advice from the government and we have worked really hard to comply with it.”
However, given the current guidance, he believed it could only work in big pubs with large beer gardens.
While there had previously been seating for 204 at the Betsey Wynne, this had been reduced to 146 with the social distancing measures in place.
Mr Borg-Neal said: “Beyond the spacing, you are talking about advice to the customers, lots of opportunities to sanitise their hands, things like disposable menus.
“It’s going to be table service only, no standing at the bar. There’s going to be an order app.”
He is now to submit the scheme for approval to the Cabinet Office through the trade body UK Hospitality.
In a message to the government, Mr Borg-Neal said: “We have to meet standards for food hygiene, health and safety and fire. Just tell us to meet the COVID standards and leave it to us.
“As far as we are concerned we have a number of pubs that can be safely opened now.”
He added: “I think the general mood I am getting is people want to come back. People can’t make sense of why you can’t sit in a pub garden with a beer but you can go on the London Underground.
“It does’t seem to make a blind bit of sense.”
Also speaking to Sky News, Dermot King, the head of Oakman Inns, said: “I think one of the features you will see in pubs going forward is a reinvention of the snug.
“That’s the kind of feel we are trying to recreate and reinvent.
“What we are not trying to do is lose the sense of hospitality. In the end we are a hospitality business.”