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Night trade poses biggest barrier to reopening on-premise

Published:  22 May, 2020

Packed pubs, standing-only bars and heaving nightclubs pose the biggest challenge to getting the struggling on-trade back on its feet, the IWSR has suggested.

After the spread of Covid-19 shut down bars and restaurants across the globe in March, governments are now keen to kickstart damaged economies with roadmaps of how to pull businesses out of lockdown.

It is the night trade in particular however, where crowds are core to the concept, that are now of “prime concern”.

The IWSR highlighted these concerns via the footprints of other countries which have already started to reopen.

The most stark example is perhaps South Korea, where authorities were forced to re-close nightclubs and bars over a cluster of infections in Seoul’s entertainment quarter.

The IWSR said that the UK – along with France – has seemingly been more cautious than some of its European neighbours which have been hasty to regain a sense of normality.

However, it also noted that the UK has already run into these problems, with some pubs running foul of law enforcement after they began offering take-away pints, causing crowds to gather in pub gardens and the roadside.

Even if night trade venues open with social distancing measures in place, it will likely take time for customers to transition to the new state of play.

“Delivery and take-away options for wine, beer and cocktails, as well as the cautious reopening of table service, are helping to support the on-premise as governments review reopening plans,” said Mark Meek, CEO of the IWSR. 

“However, it is the night trade, where crowds are core to the concept, that is proving more challenging to address. Responding to these challenges will be particularly important to governments that rely on nightlife tourism as a key economic driver too.” 

The IWSR stressed that venues may need to invest in more staff to help control crowds as they reopen, though this will be a tough prospect when they are already facing fewer customers and lower sales.

Nevertheless, in countries where venues are gradually opening, some operators are responding to the easing restrictions with “creative approaches to encourage customers to visit”.

Cafe Rothe in Germany, for example, was seen giving customers hats with swimming pool noodles attached in order to ensure social distancing.

Mediamatic ETEN restaurant in Amsterdam, meanwhile, installed separated greenhouses along the waterfront, while restaurants in Thailand have installed Plexiglas dividers between booths and tables to ensure distancing.