December 4, 2020

Coronavirus: How are pubs keeping customers safe?

Woman with a beer Image copyright Getty Images

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

Hotels, pubs and restaurants in England and Northern Ireland that serve food at tables can now reopen indoors.

Beer gardens and outdoor restaurants are open in Scotland.

Is it safe to go to the pub?

Guidance has been issued in England,Scotland and Northern Ireland on measures that pubs and restaurants must take to keep customers and staff safe.

They include:

  • The option of ordering food on apps
  • Staff will be encouraged to wash their hands before handling plates and cutlery
  • Music should be kept at a low volume to avoid people needing to shout, which increases the risk of transmission
  • Pub-goers will be encouraged to book tables in advance
  • Live gigs and standing at the bar will not be allowed
  • Controlled access to toilets

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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 from 2m to 1m plus in England. Restrictions apply in both cases. The 2m rule for some premises has now been eased in Scotland.

Must I provide contact details if eating out?

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

If a customer tests positive, will the pub or restaurant have to close?

Possibly, but not necessarily.

Official government advice says an NHS Test and Trace call does not always mean a pub or restaurant must close.

It depends on the circumstances and when the infected person visited.

NHS Test and Trace could ask staff to:

  • get tested for Covid-19
  • take extra care with social distancing
  • self-isolate “in some circumstances”

Local health protection officials have the power to close establishments.

A few pubs in England, which reopened on 4 July, have closed after customers tested positive.

If you are contacted personally by NHS Test and Trace, you should follow the advice and be prepared to self-isolate for a fortnight.

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Media captionBBC News NI explains what customers can expect as pubs and restaurants reopen

When will indoor opening happen in Scotland and Wales?

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

  • In Scotland, indoor opening can happen from 15 July on “a limited basis”
  • In Wales, pubs and restaurants can reopen outdoors from 13 July and indoors from 3 August

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


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”.