Islington pub bosses look forward to indoor reopening on May 17   

Customers at The Alwyne Castle St Pauls Road Islington 17.04.21.

Customers at The Alwyne Castle, St Pauls Road, Islington on 17.04.21. Outdoor space at the pub opened back up on April 12, and customers will be allowed back inside on May 17 - Credit: Polly Hancock

Although many pubs and restaurants were able to reopen on April 12, those without outside seating will have to wait until May 17 to welcome back customers.  

At that point, the "rule of six" - or two households of an unlimited number - will apply to indoor hospitality, which will allow pubs and restaurants without outdoor space to open again following the coronavirus lockdown. 

Damien Devine, executive director of the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub in Upper Street, said that although reopening their outside space on April 12 had been “very positive,” limited outdoor capacity meant that they need to get the theatre open to get back to anywhere near back to being a sustainable business. 

“If we can keep the occupancy up, then it’s worthwhile - just about," he said.

He is one of the many pub and venue owners across the country waiting for the next stage of the government’s ‘roadmap’ to get their business somewhere near to where it was before the start of the pandemic.

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For the Old Red Lion, this means getting an audience back into their theatre seats. 

Allowing inside hospitality on May 17, Devine said, “will make a complete difference, because we are a theatre pub.” 

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This element of the business is both key to its viability, and to its essence, he continued.  

“We’re very anxious to get the theatre back open, because that clearly hasn’t reopened at all since March last year.”  

“Hopefully,” Devine added, this will be possible on May 17, “but I’m not too sure what our capacity will be - it’s not really clear yet from the government.

"We have a feeling we will be able to reopen the theatre with a 50 per cent capacity, but we’re not too sure whether that’s right, or if it could change.”  

The Old Red Lion is a small family business, which has its advantages for adapting its approach quickly to navigate current restrictions, according to Devine.  

However, it comes with problems, he said.

“We’ve got limited resources. We can’t throw money at everything, so we’ve got to think about what we do, and what the net gain of it is going to be.”  

“We’ll be able to do this in this fashion up until May 17, but if it were a full-time thing, we’d close down tomorrow.” 

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