AN end to the lockdown could be on the horizon for York’s pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Boris Johnson is today (Tuesday) expected to give the hospitality industry permission to reopen in England from July 4, after a reduction in the coronavirus alert level on Friday.

The ‘new normal’ is expected to see pub goers encouraged to order drinks on smart phone apps, and premises patrolled to check on safety measures.

Industry players are hoping for a new one-metre social distancing rule to be introduced, once the results of a Government-ordered review into the two-metre decision are revealed.

Oscar Akgul relaunched his newly-refurbished Lucia Wine Bar & Grill in York just before the lockdown, following an £800,000 investment.

He told The Press he was ready to open from July 4 - but the existing two-metre rule would make it impossible.

“We are all ready to restart,” said Oscar, who also has Lucia restaurants in Harrogate and Beverley as well as the Cut & Craft in York. “If Boris Johnson says we can only open with two metres I think there will be troubled days ahead for restaurants.

“I will probably not open all my operations until that is relaxed. We would have to look at how we can manage the entire restaurant with half the capacity but running full stations, full waiters, full electricity and full costs and not enough turnover.”

A one-metre rule would reduce the restaurant capacity by 20 per cent but was acceptable and could work “with clever table management”, he said. Tables were normally positioned at least 80cm apart to give diners privacy.

Oscar said they would be able to serve food from July 4, but it would take longer to organise their drink stocks due to supply issues, with high national demand.

Oscar employs about 200 staff, none of whom have been made redundant during the crisis. In fact, Oscar has employed five new staff members, ahead of reopening.

“We managed to keep all our staff. It is a personal choice,” he said. “We are a local independent. I know the staff. I have worked with them for years. If I put myself into their position in difficult times, what if I lost my job and have a family to look after, how would I feel?

“We have kept our promise to look after them during this time. I have to think they will be grateful and return the favour, and be more loyal to the company and more settled.”

Greg Mulholland is director of the new Campaign for Pubs, which is chaired by York publican Paul Crossman, and which last week pressed for confirmation about pubs reopening among a list of 10 demands.

Greg said: “It’s completely unacceptable that less than two weeks before the suggested reopening date for pubs, bars and restaurants, we still have no certainty or clarity as to if or how reopening can happen. This is a hugely stressful time for pubs and publicans, with months now with little or no income and facing outrageous rent demands and the Government is making matters worse through the lack of any clarity.

“We need an announcement now that gives clear and realistic guidelines for opening so pubs can prepare and brewers can brew, but we also need ongoing support and rent relief as trade will continue to be restricted and in some cases, especially for smaller pubs, reopening simply won’t be viable or possible.”

*Editor's note: The original story reported that no staff at Oscar Akgul's restaurants had been furloughed. This was a misunderstanding and has now been corrected.