"After this long confinement, we deserve to party"

Preparations before reopening in a Wetherspoons pub in North London.

Melanie Marriott has "Goosebumps". Saturday, July 4, she reopens the first of her eight pubs in London, after almost four months of compulsory closure, and crosses her fingers so that everything goes well. It was necessary to reorganize everything in its establishments: put transparent plastic walls between the tables, create a separate entrance and exit, place hydroalcoholic gels everywhere, prohibit orders from bars to avoid the rush, develop an application to order from his cell phone…

"It's like making a gigantic three-dimensional puzzle, with elements that change all the time. With all these modifications, we will have a capacity of only 70% compared to normal ”says the founder of Darwin & Wallace, a group of lovely pub-restaurants that she founded in 2013.

If she does not hide her relief from finally resuming service, she will do it in stages: opening of a first pub on Saturday, three others the following week, then three others. The latter, located in the Canary Wharf business district, will wait: the office towers remain almost empty for the moment.

The government has increased aid

England (not Scotland or Wales) will allow pubs and restaurants (and hairdressers), which have been closed since March 23, to reopen this Saturday when containment began. Life comes back behind closed doors, the last paint and vacuum cleaners are gone, the old beer barrels have been emptied and are being replaced by fresh supplies. Part of the soul of the country will be revived. But financially, the period was obviously very difficult.

The government has however increased aid. The most important is partial unemployment, providing 80% of the employees' wages within the limit of 2,500 pounds per month (2,700 euros). "It was a crucial aid"explains Mme Marriott, which was able to keep its two hundred employees.

His main problem, besides juggling school at the home of his two sons, nine and thirteen, comes from the rents of his establishments. Despite sound finances, she cannot afford this huge, fixed cost when she has no income. "I had to start discussions with my eight owners", she explains. Most of them were understanding, agreeing to either postpone payments or cancel part of them.

The question of rents is the key to the economic survival of pubs

The question of rents is the key to the economic survival of pubs. "In a majority of cases, it goes rather well"says James Shorthouse, industry specialist at Colliers International, a consulting firm. Pubs are in fact very often owned by large brewers, who are both owners of the walls and sellers of beer. The managers, generally small family businesses, are thus forced to sell certain beers, but benefit in exchange for aid on the decoration or maintenance of their establishment. In the current crisis, it is in the interest of these big companies to help pubs survive, and most have been sympathetic to rents. Greene King, which owns 1,700 pubs and rents a thousand, for example, reduced rents by 90% for two months, and by 50% the following month.

Restaurants, on the other hand, operate on another economic model, with private owners who tend to be much harsher. Bankruptcy filings are increasing. Café Rouge and Bella Italia announced the closure of 90 of its 250 restaurants on Thursday; the Byron Burger chain came under administration; SSP Group, which owns the Upper Crust sandwich shops, plans to cut 5,000 jobs… "For pubs too, some will close, but I would tend to say no more than 5% of them", says James Shorthouse.

However, their reopening was an economic emergency. And also a huge relief. Elsa, who has owned The Hamlet for thirteen years, a pub in south London, does not hide her excitement. "I couldn't take it anymore to see this empty place when I have dedicated my life to it for so long. " On Saturday, she planned music and set up a beer pump at the curb to serve take-out glasses. “After this long confinement, we deserve to party. "

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In the UK, the economic horizon keeps getting darker

Our selection of articles on the coronavirus

Find all our articles on the coronavirus in our section

On the epidemic

On deconfinement and its challenges


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here