Coronavirus: What are the new rules when pubs reopen?

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Pub owner in Wales


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Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Northern Ireland and England are ready to welcome customers for the first time since lockdown began in March.

Hotels, pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland that serve food and have table service are allowed to reopen from Friday.

Establishments in England are able to reopen from Saturday.

But despite the easing of restrictions, a trip to a local bar or place to eat could be a very different experience from how it was before the coronavirus outbreak.

When will reopening begin?

Northern Ireland is the first part of the UK to reopen pubs and restaurants.

Its date was brought forward after businesses called for change, following reopening in the Republic of Ireland on 29 June.

It will be joined by England on Saturday, but there will be restrictions put in place, including changes to shift patterns, mandatory table service and more use of hand sanitiser.

On 20 March, all pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in the UK were asked to shut in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The only exceptions were cafes and canteens at a few selected places such as schools, hospitals and prisons.

Many restaurants and pubs started offering food delivery or takeaway beers to generate income while they were closed.

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Image caption

Some pubs have been operating as takeaways during lockdown

Is it safe to go to the pub?

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Tourism NI published new guidance in June on measures that pubs and restaurants take to keep customers and staff safe.

Customers are likely to be given the option of ordering food on apps, while staff will be encouraged to wash their hands before handling plates and cutlery.

Updated government guidance for pubs and restaurants reopening in England says that music should be kept at a low volume to avoid people needing to shout, which increases the risk of transmission from tiny droplets in the air, known as aerosols.

Pub-goers will be encouraged to book tables in advance, while live gigs and standing at the bar will not be allowed.

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Media captionSome pubs are experimenting with an app-ordering system

Meanwhile, the Wetherspoons pub chain has said its staff will be provided with face masks and protective eyewear and it will run a reduced food menu.

Bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise will be replaced by individual sachets. Customers will also be encouraged to sit outside in pub gardens, while some indoor seating areas will be separated by plastic screens.

Social distancing has been reduced from 2m (6ft) to 1m in Northern Ireland and will be cut from 2m to 1m plus from Saturday in England. Restrictions apply in both cases.

How will contact tracing work?

UK pub and hospitality trade bodies have published guidance for bars and restaurants on how to operate contact tracing.

  • Contact details only need to be taken from one person in a group
  • The details must be kept for 21 days
  • Customers only need to give their name and phone number. Owners should also note their arrival time, and how long they stay
  • Data can be taken in any way – on paper, online or during a phone booking
  • People can refuse to give information, but owners can choose not to serve them

What about the rest of the UK?

Each nation sets its own rules for the reopening of food and drink outlets:

  • In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants are set to reopen from 6 July. Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to use indoor areas from 15 July on “a limited basis”. The First Minister has said she’s also been getting advice on reducing social distancing to 1m.
  • Some pubs, cafes and restaurants in Wales will be able to reopen outdoors from 13 July, under government plans. But indoor services will remain closed for now, despite industry pressure.

How did the hospitality sector cope during lockdown?

The hospitality sector was the third-largest employer in the country in 2018, according to UK Hospitality.

But many restaurants and cafes were already struggling even before the Covid-19 outbreak, in the face of rising rents and falling consumer spending.

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Media captionHarry in Gloucestershire says the lockdown has been “tough” for his business.

In the lockdown, job cuts and closures were announced by chains such as Frankie & Benny’s and Carluccio’s.

Tray of beers

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UK hospitality industry

  • 3rdlargest UK employer in 2018

  • 3.2 millionworkers in the sector

  • 99%of hospitality businesses are SMEs

  • £130bnannual turnover in 2018

  • 67%expect it will be “months” before going to a restaurant

Source: UK Hospitality, EY

Thousands of workers in the industry have been furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme, which allows them to receive 80% of their monthly salary up to £2,500.

The British Beer and Pub Association, which represents the pubs industry, said it welcomed the move to reopen businesses but called on pub-goers to support staff “to ensure everyone can enjoy the return of our pubs safely”.



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