Pub bosses nervous ahead of reopening despite outside alterations

Pub owners have issued dire warnings as Suffolk and Essex was placed in tier 2 restrictions Picture

Pubs in Suffolk can begin to reopen from April 12 but bosses are just hoping to break even - Credit: WAVEBREAKMEDIA LTD

Suffolk pubs will reopen with altered menus and tepees in their beer gardens as lockdown eases, but bosses are "apprehensive" over their takings.

From April 12 pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen their doors to serve seated customers outside.

Philip Turner, founder of the Chestnut Group of 12 pubs, inns and restaurants, said the chain had spent £100,000 preparing for the outside reopening.

Chestnut Group managing director Philip Turner is concerned about the effects of the economic crisis

Chestnut Group managing director Philip Turner Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"We've got all sorts of stuff going on," he said.

"When people arrive they'll have blankets at their tables, we've got fur rugs on the chairs and gas heaters. We've got tepees and all sorts of other outside areas."

The chain has installed covered outside areas but they have to be open on at least two sides to comply with Covid regulations, according to Mr Turner.

The Chestnut group will reopen its pubs with blankets and covered outdoor spaces for guests.

The Chestnut group will reopen its pubs with blankets and covered outdoor spaces for guests. - Credit: EMMA CABIELLES/CHESTNUT GROUP

He added: "We're making sure we've shortened some of our menus to minimise the amount of time people have to spend waiting."

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Mr Turner said he was feeling "apprehensive" about the reopening.

"It's always slightly apprehensive when investing vast amounts of money and you're not quite sure what's going to happen.

"But, I think that people are forgiving, they understand that we're in Great Britain and the weather can be challenging.

"The positive is that we've got something like 9,000 bookings across our portfolio for the last 18 days of April, which is brilliant."

Nick Attfield, director of properties at Southwold-based brewery and pub chain Adnams, said the firm had also invested in a tepee as well beach huts to form covered outside space at their pubs.

Nick Attfield, director of properties at Adnams, said the change in restrictions would make a huge d

Nick Attfield, director of properties at Adnams - Credit: JAMES BEDFORD/ADNAMS

"We have had to reimagine our menus to make them, for want of a better term, weatherproof," he said.

"You don't want to walk out with a beautiful plate of delicate foods and it's cold two minutes later. And you don't want your garnish to blow off into the garden as you're walking to the table with it."

But Mr Attfield said he did not expect the chain to make much money when it first reopened.

He said: "I am only anticipating our revenues to be in the order of 15 -20% of what they would have been in 2019.

"I don't think anyone's gonna make much money in April and mid May, but it gets us open it gives us some cash flow.

"And again, obviously, you haven't got the costs associated with being totally busy.

"Because we're not paying business rates and we've reduced our staffing cost in line with that. You know, you're not gonna have five or 10 servers behind the bar. We're only going to have two servers behind the bar and things like that.

"So while 15 to 20% is gloomy, my plan is that we breakeven in these in these tricky months. That's my plan."