Loud football match screenings or music, dance floors, propping up the bar, ketchup bottles, and even sheltering from the rain are banned as England’s pubs reopen from Saturday.
After more than three months shut due to coronavirus, England’s pubs, bars, restuarants and cafes are finally reopening to the public in a socially-distanced way.
But there are rules you – and the venue – must follow to ensure pubs are as safe as possible and avoid a second outbreak.
Pubs will be told to keep lists of everyone who comes in for 21 days in case there is an outbreak – with more outdoor seats and tape to mark distance on the floor.
Many toilets will need to be one-in, one-out and bar staff hidden behind screens to prevent the spread of the virus.
Bar managers will be told to work with their rivals on the same street to make sure they stagger their opening times.
And punters are being warned they can’t shelter inside if a rainstorm – otherwise they could cause an outbreak.
If you’re in the beer garden, you can sit in a group of up to six – socially distanced – or in a group of two households of any size.
But if you’re indoors, you can only sit with one other household – and even then you should be socially distanced.
Here are 13 key ways pubs will look different, including the new rules they must follow.
1. Loud music or broadcasts are banned to stop people shouting
Loud music or loud broadcasts like football will be banned to stop people shouting at each other.
Guidance says all venues “should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other.
“This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.
“This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission.”
It also says “loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting” should be prevented.
Pubs are allowed to screen football matches, but only quietly and there can’t be any chanting.
2. Live music and dance floors are banned
Guidance says venues “should not permit live performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience.”
This is to stop “aerosol transmission” – from either the performer(s) or their audience.
Theatres are likewise allowed to open but only if they don’t put on a live show.
Dance floors in pubs and bars are also banned. “You should take steps to prevent close contact activities, such as communal dancing,” the guidance says.
3. Ketchup bottles and cutlery are banished from tables
Pubs and restaurants should provide cutlery and condiments “only when food is served.”
And the days of the communal ketchup or mayonnaise bottle are numbered – as pubs and restaurants should provide “only disposable condiments”.
Communal bottles are allowed but only if they are cleaned after every single use.
4. You’ll likely need to book – and you have to give all your names to staff
Venues are being advised to control numbers through a book-in-advance system.
But it’s also because all pubs, bars, restaurants and more are being told to assist with the NHS Test and Trace programme.
That means keeping a “temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days”.
The guidance doesn’t say how this should be done but lists visitor books or bookings records.
Pubs will need to “assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed” in order to contain clusters or outbreaks.
5. You must obey the rules on gatherings
Gatherings are still limited in the following ways:
Inside the pub: No more than two households can meet at any one time. Even then they must sit two metres apart, or one metre with social distancing.
Outside in the beer garden: Groups of up to six can meet, or a group of two households of unlimited size can meet, in a socially distanced rule.
That means no big parties, no long tables and no hugging and back-slapping and kissing, even if you’re tipsy.
Bar managers are being asked to remind people of the limit on gatherings when they book.
6. Bar staff will stand behind screens
Guidance recommends using screens or barriers to separate workers from each other, and from customers at points of service.
That could mean bar staff serving from behind a perspex screen to avoid transmission.
Staff are also asked to use back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) if possible.
And staff rotas will need to be redrawn so each person only has contact with a fixed number of others on their team.
Tables will be spaced further apart and floor tape or paint will be used to mark areas to help people comply with social distancing.
They should be two metres apart – or one metre if there is “risk mitigation” in place like screens, back-to-back seating or face coverings.
7. Some toilets will be one-in, one-out
The guidance recommends “one way flow” systems to stop people bunching up – such as using one door as an entry and one as an exit.
Pubs should also arrange “one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues,” it says.
But that’s a problem when it comes to pub toilets, many of which are cramped with narrow entrances.
On toilets, the guidance urges pubs to use “a limited entry approach, with one in, one out.”
8. You’ll get more outdoor seats, table service – and use apps to order your drinks
Pubs are being encouraged to put in more outdoor seats – with changes coming down the track to let them use car parks as beer gardens.
Outdoor table service “should also be encouraged”, the guidance says – and table service should be followed as a rule to stop people queues.
“Where bar or counter service is unavoidable,” people should be stopped from staying at the bar or counter after ordering, or leaning on it.
Pubs are also told to “encourage use of contactless ordering from tables where available – for example, through an ordering app.”
9. You’ll be banned from propping up the bar – or sheltering from the rain
Pubs are warned they have to plan for keeping the 2-metre or ‘one metre plus’ rules even if there is a thunderstorm.
They need to be “clear that customers cannot seek shelter indoors unless social distancing can be maintained.”
10. Indoor spaces will have to be massively below capacity
Sitting indoors will be allowed – but numbers are strictly limited.
New coronavirus laws from July 4 in England will make it illegal for groups of more than 30 people to form.
Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other venues will be exempt from the ‘group of 30’ law, which exists mainly to prevent things like raves.
But even so, the guidance warns pubs may have to lower capacity even further than it would be if they had all tables two metres apart.
The guidance explains: “Even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue.”
11. You’ll see this sign in the window
Pubs should work with their customers to tell them about the restrictions on gatherings.
That means not gathering indoors with more than one other household.
And it means not gathering outdoors with more than either one other household, or six people in total from any number of households.
In return, firms should also display a notification “in a prominent place” to show a risk assessment has been carried out and they’re following the rules. A picture of the notice is above.
12. Nearby pubs must work together to open at different times
Individual businesses “should consider the cumulative impact of many venues re-opening in a small area.
“This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations.”
This might have to include staggering entry times with other venues and “taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.”
13. Punters will be told to avoid public transport or crowded pavements
Patrons will be advised “to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.”
Venues are told to reduce the “need for customers to queue, but where this is unavoidable, discouraging customers from queueing indoors and using outside spaces for queueing where available and safe. For example, using some car parks and existing outdoor services areas.”
Car parking and bike parking should be increased.
And if pubs don’t obey, they could be shut down
Critics say there is not enough legal redress for people who say the rules aren’t being followed.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma claimed there will be spot checks and any breaches should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.
He said there will be spot checks – though doubts have been raised about how many of these are actually being carried out.
The guidance insists the government has powers to close down venues that host large gatherings.
The direct power on gatherings was introduced under schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.