Boss of Milton Keynes pub chain says it 'cannot wait for the government' and he will open on July 4th

    The boss of a pub chain with sites in Milton Keynes has said he will be reopening all venues on 4th July because delaying the move would put jobs at risk.

    Peter Borg-Neal, founder and chief executive of Oakman Inns, said he plans to open all 28 of his pubs across the South East and the Midlands - including sites like The Cherry Tree in Olney, The Navigation in Cosgrove , The Betsey Wynne in Swanbourne and The White Hart in Ampthill.

    The government's roadmap out of the coronavirus lockdown says pubs, hairdressers and beauty salons will only be able to open from that date at the very earliest, providing conditions are met.

    But Mr Borg-Neal has "challenged the Prime Minister to tell him otherwise" and says his plans will not change unless Boris Johnson directly intervenes.

    He tweeted: "So @OakmanInns will be opening all sites on the 4 July. It would irresponsible for us to delay as we would be putting jobs at risk."

    "To open without proper forward planning would also be wrong. We cannot wait for the Government to make a decision."

    The chief executive told the BBC he is "not trying to be some reckless rebel".

    He said the chain needs three weeks to be able to train furloughed staff on its COVID-19 safety measures and order food and drink supplies.

    Pictures of Oakman pub The Betsey Wynne in Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire, show the efforts the chain has put in to making its premises "COVID-secure".

    Tables will be separated by glass screens, customers will order food and drink electronically using an app, and hand sanitizers will be widely available.

    Menus will also be disposable to avoid the spread of the virus, Mr Borg-Neal told Sky News last month.

    Oakman Inns had to put 900 of its 1,000 staff on furlough when the government ordered pubs in March.

    Pub owners are now putting pressure on ministers to reduce social distancing from 2m to 1m so more staff can work at once and they can cater to more customers.

    Oakman Inns' chief operating officer Dermot King said pubs with beer gardens are more likely to survive the devastating economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

    He said: "For many smaller premises, as well as those who don't have significant outdoor areas, it simply will not be viable to open with the 2m rule.

    "It's no exaggeration to say that if the government does anything further to prevent pubs, bars and restaurants from opening on July 4, and doesn't reduce social distancing from 2m to 1m, then there will be large numbers of job losses in the hospitality sector - as well as premises that probably never open again."

    Sky News has contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment.

    Additional reporting by Sky News.

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