LANDLORDS are demanding that they should be allowed to reopen in line with non-essential shops as lockdown is relaxed.

The hospitality industry was one of the last to be allowed to reopen after the first lockdown and with the Government set to announce the roadmap out of lockdown next week, pub bosses have said they need to be allowed to reopen or be given extra support while they remain closed.

It has been reported that pubs may be allowed to reopen in April, but only serve customers outdoors.

The British Beer and Pub Association said that it believes in Blackburn and Darwen 68 pubs out of the borough's 113 will remain closed if outdoor service only is permitted at pubs from April.

The trade association says this is because the majority of pubs in the UK do not have a big enough garden to serve customers without opening indoors too.

Gary Perkins, who owns four pubs in Darwen, has said that when he re-opens, he wants his businesses to be able to operate without having to impose onerous rules on customers.

He said: “When we are back open again, I just want to be back open.

“We are going to have to learn to live with this virus, it isn’t going to go away.

“I just want to get back to normal, I want people to come out, I want them to have a good time and I want them to make their own decisions.

“I don’t want to be imposing any more restrictions on anybody.

“The whole point of going out is to enjoy yourself, not to be told ‘you cannot do this and you cannot do that’.”

Gary, who owns The Bank Bar and Kitchen, The Taps Bar, Spitfire Sports Bar, The Vault, all of which are part of the Darwen Bars and Leisure group, caught Covid-19 himself at the end of November.

He said he was bed-bound for a few days but luckily did not develop any further symptoms requiring him to seek hospital treatment.

He now hopes that with the top four at risk groups vaccinated, that there will be less restrictions imposed on his businesses when they are allowed to re-open.

Wet-led pubs have been closed in Lancashire since mid-October, with food-led pubs and restaurants being closed a few weeks later.

Pub and beer expert Mark Briggs believes that hospitality has been unfairly treated in comparison to retail and that breweries have been hit by the ban on takeaway alcohol.

He said: “It seems very unfair that the brewery cannot offer a takeaway service when other retail can get up and started.

“They have suffered greatly and it's getting to a situation now where some pubs may not even reopen.

“For some pubs, it will not be worth opening, for traditional wet-led pubs, they may see other places opening with beer gardens and they may have their hands tied if they don’t have that facility.”

The boss of one food-led pub and hotel, the Fence Gate, in Fence, said many pubs and independent shops are safer than some essential retail outlets.

Director Keeley Beaumont said: “We provide the same safe and controlled environment to keep our customers safe.

“I don’t know how we could possibly not open at the same time as non-essential retail, for me the two go hand in hand.”

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Even if some pubs did try and open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain and they would find it has all been for nothing.

“For many pubs, gardens are at the back and the only way to access them is through the inside. Toilet facilities would still need to be provided. We question the Government’s thinking behind this."