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£836m splurge as curbs are lifted

BRITONS will splash out an extra £836million next week as the nation toasts a return to indoor eating and drinking for the first time this year.

Hospitality businesses have reported a surge in bookings and pubs said they expect to serve three million pints on Monday alone.

The milestone will mark a return for 45,000 pubs, with 2,000 still shuttered.

Meanwhile, the renaissance on the high street will also let bosses bring back 865,000 workers from furlough after the 18-week closure.

More than 600,000 jobs have already been lost in the sector, while more than 12,000 venues have been lost since December 2019.

But consumers rushing out to socialise indoors will boost spending to £24.5billion next week. That is £836million more than consumers spent in each of the past five weeks, the Centre for Economics and Business Research said.

Dave Potts, the chief executive of supermarket Morrisons, which will reopen 400 cafes on Monday, said: ‘The country seems to be booming, and customers are certainly in a spend, spend, spend mode. While the pandemic is not over, it is in retreat.’ And Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘The countdown to freedom, and recovery, is on.’

Clive Watson, City Pub Group’s chief executive, said: ‘We’ve already seen a big surge of online bookings for next week and beyond: this puts us back on track.’

While CEBR director Doug McWilliams said: ‘The consumer has plenty of money to spend. All the data we’ve already seen has been very positive indeed, and that’s even before the end of lockdown.’

However, 2,000 pubs will remain shut on Monday until all restrictions have been lifted, which the Prime Minister has said will happen on June 21.

Until then, the ‘rule of six’ and the one-metre-plus social-distancing rule will remain in place, keeping many businesses, such as nightclubs, shut.

Bosses demanded Mr Johnson stick to his plan to hand businesses a great British summer. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: ‘Monday’s reopening of indoor hospitality is a huge moment on the road to recovery and we are pleased to be reaching this milestone. However, it is a psychological reopening, not an economic one. The capacity restrictions which will remain in place until June 21 significantly limit the ability of venues to be profitable and therefore viable in the long term.’

Pub and restaurant groups lost 60 per cent of their sales in April compared to the same month in 2019, according to data from CGA. After an early rush, colder weather led to the number of punters thinning. Many venues shut their gardens due to rain and snow, and put staff back on furlough.

Monday’s reopening follows releases of positive economic data. A report from Barclaycard, published this week, reported that consumer confidence in April was the highest it had been since the pandemic began. And economic growth is set to rise more than 7 per cent this year, according to the Bank of England, the fastest rate since 1981.

£51bn boom in staycations

AS HOTELS and B&Bs prepare to reopen their doors, industry bosses are predicting a domestic tourism boom worth more than £50billion.

A change in the rules on Monday means that holiday groups from different households, such as families with children and grandparents, will finally be able to take a break together. The staycation boost comes just in time to revive an industry on its knees.

Experts at VisitBritain expect domestic tourism spending will surge by 51 per cent this year compared with last year, taking it to £51.4billion. They are forecasting spending of £38.6billion on day trips to the seaside and other destinations, and spending of £13.5billion on longer stays such as in holiday parks, cottages and hotels.

But, with spring and Easter bookings already lost, domestic tourism spending this year is expected to be 56 per cent below 2019.

Alistair Handyside, of the South West Tourism Alliance, warned that some holiday cottage owners have doubled prices to take advantage of those desperate for a break, but many are treating customers fairly.