The first potential problem is obviously the notoriously fickle British weather. While we’ve all been in lockdown, we’ve enjoyed about the driest and sunniest Spring in living memory. But what’s the betting that, as soon as outside drinking is permitted, the heavens will open for weeks on end? And, even if it’s dry, outdoor drinking isn’t that much fun if it’s a bit chilly with a stiff breeze. Plus, unless the social distancing rule is relaxed from 6’6” to 3’3”, the drinkers in the beer garden are going to be pretty thin on the ground.
While some pubs have large outdoor areas, realistically most don’t, particularly in urban areas. So it’s only a very partial benefit for the pub trade. The suggestion has been made that streets could be converted into temporary pubs with seating spilling out on to the road. However, in reality the locations where that could work are pretty limited. Many town-centre streets with pubs on them have already been pedestrianised anyway. Roads fulfil an essential economic function and, with shops reopening next week, are going to be not far off normal levels of traffic. Even if this could be achieved, it would require expensive and time-consuming traffic diversions. Maybe pubs could put a few tables out on the pavement, but is that really going to generate a worthwhile return on an urban street?
Shoppers might not appreciate having to run the gauntlet of boisterous pub regulars who are generally safely confined inside. And, even if you could get hold of it, would it really be worth investing in a stock of outdoor seating for what was likely to be only a few weeks’ trade?
Whether you like it or not, TV football is one of the biggest draws in pubs, and the Premier League is scheduled to restart next week on 17 June. But, even if you could, there’s not much point in showing the football for which you’ve paid an arm and a leg to all and sundry in the street. A large chunk of your normal trade won’t come back until they can go indoors to watch the telly.
So, by all means welcome it and take advantage if you get the opportunity. But don’t imagine for a minute that outdoor drinking alone is going to be the salvation of the pub trade. We won’t be able to say we’ve truly returned to normality until we can huddle together with our friends with a few drinks inside a pub.