Pubs in England could reopen again two weeks earlier than planned on 22 June, according to reports.
Ministers hope to speed up the timetable in an attempt to prevent up to 3.5 million workers in the hospitality sector losing their jobs, it is claimed.
Under the current schedule, bars, hotels and restaurants are due to stay shut until July at the earliest – although they can serve customers outside their premises.
However, a group of ministers including chancellor Rishi Sunak are said to be looking at ways to help pubs to reopen using beer gardens, terraces and marquees.
The Financial Times, which claims to have confirmation of the plans from three Whitehall officials, reported that the ministers were calling themselves the “Save Summer Six”.
Mr Sunak is said to be in favour of a full reopening of pubs and restaurants before 4 July, with social distancing rules in place.
However trade association UK Hospitality has warned that pubs and other businesses would not be able to operate profitably if the two-metre rule had to be observed.
Boris Johnson is believed to have asked business secretary Alok Sharma to make the case for cutting the UK’s social distancing rule to one metre.
Meanwhile Robert Jenrick, housing and local government secretary, is reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas, it is claimed.
The other ministers in the group are said to be cabinet office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
It comes after industry bosses warned that as many as 15,000 pubs could be forced to permanently close if they are forced to wait until September to emerge from lockdown.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, also warned the sector could be facing a “double hit” if the public continue to stay away from busy social hubs.
“I am very, very worried about the sector,” she said. “There are going to be much fewer people inside our pubs and that is part of the reality going forward.”
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