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Alchemist CEO Simon Potts has said he would be open to a 12-week transition towards reopening, and that a period of restrictions could have its positives for operators.

Speaking at MCA’s The Conversation, Potts told host Peter Martin that the 20-strong bar group had forecast various “working scenarios” based on an April, May, or June reopening, and that it would be prepared to open the estate “as one” when the time comes.

However, though he feels the business is in a far better position to approach reopening now than it was last summer, he added that it would welcome a transition period towards normality, and be open to the return of certain restrictions like social distancing and even the rule of six.

“I’d be quite open to it,” Potts said. “I don’t want to underestimate the fact that people have been locked up for a long time in homes and they aren’t used to big crowds.

“I think the initial idea of coming into sweaty bars and heaving locations will be a bit alien to people, so a bit of a transition into normality is to be expected, and is absolutely fine.”

And the same point applies from a staff perspective too, he continued, explaining that it could take some time for teams to be able to meet demand and serve at 2019 volumes.

“With all the skills that are involved in delivering such high numbers, clicking that straight back on isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “So, I’m quite open to the idea of having a 12-week transition before we’re back to a completely unfettered environment.”

Looking further ahead, Potts said the positive pool of recent consumer data has left him confident that people are keen to return to hospitality, and with the vaccine numbers continuing to rise “there will be a lot of appetite to get going again” both from the public and Government.

The G7 Summit in June will be seen as a potential “global point scoring” event for Britain, he said, making him hopeful that the sector could see a return of innovative support measures from the Treasury to boost economic resurgence.

“I just hope that the Chancellor and the Business Secretary, the people who are going to help us deliver the economic growth, get a chance to speak again, and are able to be heard more clearly than the likes of Hancock and Gove,” he said. “They can think quite creatively.

“I live in hope that there’s going to be some good solutions, along with the obvious examples of rates relief and so on.”

Also at the event, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said that understanding Government plans for restrictions across all areas of the sector – especially bars, pubs and late-night venues – will be just as important as a blanket reopening date.

“We need to make sure that we don’t have the situation that we had last summer, where the roadmap talked about hospitality reopening, and then didn’t set a schedule for how you get the rest of the hospitality sector reopen,” she said. “Late-night was a Government blind spot.

“We need to make sure that when that roadmap is published we have a line of sight for how you reopen entertainment and nightclubs, and how you move towards getting a pub to operate as a pub again, as opposed to under restrictions.

“The how we reopen is just as important as the when.”