With pubs looking to reopen their doors next month, we spoke with the landlord of a popular pub in Bexley to get a glimpse of what they'll will look like, and how he's preparing for the big rush back.

Perspex screens, bookings-only and table service will all be introduced at the King's Arms when its doors finally reopen in a few weeks time, and capacity will likely be reduced by up to 50% due to social distancing rules.

After three months without pubs, landlord Pete Marshall says he is preparing for a flood of eager visitors during the first few days of reopening, but has admitted he is nervous about keeping everyone safe as pubs "enter a new world than the one we left."

Mr Marshall also called for clarity from the Government, saying owners such as himself are watching the 5pm daily briefings waiting for guidance on social distancing and opening dates with increasing frustration

Boris Johnson previously announced that pubs would reopen on July 4, but has been silent on the matter for several weeks now and it is understood the Government is currently reviewing the 2 metre social distancing rules.

The King's Arms, located at 156 Broadway, has been serving the people of Bexleyheath for over 175 years, but closed its doors in March along with thousands of others across the UK.

But with plans for the establishments to reopen in the new future, Mr Marshall, who took over the reigns in 2018, says the King's Arms is already gearing up to return.

He's confident that the reopening of pubs will see people flock to their local boozer, especially as his pub has stayed in the public eye during lockdown by hosting quizzes and events.

Speaking to the News Shopper, he said his prime concern was the safety of staff and customers, and making sure people know that the pub has taken what's happened over the last few months very seriously.

"When we reopen the King's Arms, some things are going to be different. The new normal isn't going to be that normal, and there are going to have to be a lot of changes to our pub-routines so people feel safe," said Pete.

News Shopper:

"However, I don't pubs to turn into hospitals, sterile and devoid of any atmosphere so it's no longer a pub.

"We want it to feel safe, but still feel like a pub, and we're trying hard to make sure the experience still feels normal despite any changes."

Pete said that whilst they were plowing ahead with changes ahead of a proposed opening of July 4, nothing had actually been confirmed by the Government.

"The changes I am bringing in are all things I wanted to bring in regardless of the Government's guidance as they'll make the pub safer.

"Right now, we have no idea when we'll actually be reopening, or what level of social distancing we'll have to adhere to, how big groups can be, nothing.

"What we've been told is to tune in at 5pm and find out at the same time as everyone else, just like the schools did."

So how will pubs function when they reopen? Pete said one of the key things they were bringing in were perspex screens. They are currently being installed so that each section of the pub and all the walkways are protected, and so tables of different groups will be separated.

News Shopper:

Another big move will be to close the bar.

Instead of being the focal point of the pub, the bar will just be used as a base, with table service only replacing the traditional method of getting your drink.

The pub will be cashless and for the most part tables will need to be booked up in advance, but both these aspects are just extensions of what was already in place prior to coronavirus.

There will also be a one-way system in place with a designated entrance and exit, and Pete plans on making the most of the pub's lovely roof terrace.

Hand sanitiser will be attached to walls across the pub, and the King's Arms' menu is also being effectively scrap, with Pete considering take away options.

News Shopper:

"We're expecting to reach our capacity a lot more than we were before."

"I'd say we're going to be down to at least 65% capacity, and even to 50% if the social distancing distance remains at two metres.

"So it'll make a big impact. Social distancing is very fiddly right now and it will affect us, but we're hoping that after a few weeks, people will start to adjust and instead of crowding in on a Friday they'll turn to alternative, quieter days, helping spread out peak times.

"One of the biggest concerns for our industry is we expect to be full to the brim with people for the first two weeks, but after that we have no idea.

"People have coped for the last three months without pubs, and some people will still be scared of going back, but we hope by being safe then over time more and more will return."

Asked if it was safe, Pete said: "Yes, i think it will. Going to the pub will undoubtedly affect the R number, just like everything else, but a large number of pub operators are taking this very seriously.

"We have to get this economy going again. I do worry about some pubs who might not be taking this seriously, and some simply might not have the funds to bring in safety measures.

"Things we took for granted months ago I am now finding myself having to stop and think about.

"But we've taken the new normal very seriously, and this pub will be as safe as it possibly can be. and I do think that when some of the more apprehensive people start coming back, they'll go to the places they know have been taking safety seriously."

Mr Marshall says he still doesn't know when exactly he'll reopen, but if the Government do go ahead with July 4, he is currently undecided over opening his doors.

News Shopper:

"There's going to be some silliness when pubs do reopen, its inevitable. We've never had trouble here, but it's likely I'll be trialling our safety measures first and opening a few days later.

"It goes without saying we want to be busy, but the last thing we want is people being unsafe and crowds running at our staff."

Pete added: "I'm nervous about reopening yes, I'm not looking forward to it from a safety perspective.

"We put in two years of very hard work to get where we are, and we were getting a general response that people largely enjoyed the pub. Everyone knew how we operate.

"But now we're entering into a different world. Revenue just can't be the same again, staff will have greater responsibility whilst they're exposed to the public, and well it's opening a can of worms.

"I know many people will be raring to come back to the King's Arms, and I'm confident we'll be busy too.

"Right now, there is no new normal and it's nerve-wracking, but once we take that first step and the country finds its new groove with pubs, then I'll be able to start enjoying it!"