Restaurants, Pubs and Cafés Reopen – What Rules and When?

Restaurants, pubs, and cafés are about to reopen, and the restrictions that applied in December when they were last open have changed.

So what has changed, what is open and what are the rules now and when do they change?

Lockdown At a Glance

➼ 𝟏𝟐𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐥

Outdoor Hospitality Opens Up

➼ 𝟏𝟕𝐭𝐡 𝐌𝐚𝐲

Indoor Hospitality Opens Up

➼ 𝟐𝟏𝐬𝐭 𝐉𝐮𝐧𝐞

All legal limits on social contact removed


Rules That Apply

The hospitality industry has been significantly affected by the pandemic because they had to keep closing and opening. Although they have been resilient and did find a way to stay afloat and adapt, they need consistency. Some establishments had to completely close down because they could not manage to keep running with the lockdown. Most establishments hope that once they open, they will not be subjected to a further lockdown.

Some rules have to be observed and maintained as restaurants, pubs, and cafes reopen as mentioned earlier these include:

  • If a customer is not seated, for instance, if they are going to the bathroom or just got into the restaurant and are being shown to their table, they need to have their face mask. They also need to observe the social distance rule.
  • Every customer that goes into these establishments and is above 16years of age will have to give the staff their contact details or check into the NHS test and trace.
  • There are two rules you must follow. Either be in a group of whatever size you prefer, but it should not be made up of more than two households, or follow the rule of six. The rule of six allows a group of six people, including children of all ages.
  • All customers must make their order, drink and eat while they are seated at their table.
  • Restaurants, pubs, and cafes with outside seating areas are the only establishments in the hospitality industry that can reopen.
  • The seating outside has to be spaced and be in line with the social distancing rules.
  • Curfews will no longer be in place, and the substantial meal rule does not have to be a requirement anymore.
  • A Covid passport will not apply to the hospitality industry. Instead, it will apply to indoor events such as football matches and mass gatherings. They will also be required in nightclubs when they are reopened.
  • Hotels are not yet permitted to open for stays, but self-contained accommodation and away from home overnight stays in the country can reopen.

In England, it is expected that hotels will reopen on May 17th, and restaurants and pubs could also reopen their indoor dining. However, it is worth noting that the two households or the rule of six will still be applicable for indoor dining. Groups seating outside should be less than thirty people. All the rules and limits might hopefully be lifted by June 21st.

Live events and nightclubs will be permitted to commence, and guidance will be provided for the number of people allowed to be at a wedding venue. Note that all this is subject to the results of the scientific research results program.

How The Venues Are Keeping Customers Safe

Restaurants, pubs, and cafes will reopen in a multi-stage plan. According to the government directive, some measures will have to be taken into account when these establishments reopen, but the restrictions will be gradually lifted in stages. Therefore, the hospitality industry has to ensure their customers and staff are safe under the new directives. In order to stop and prevent the spread of Covid, there is hospitality guidance in place for restaurants, pubs, and cafes.

It states that they should:

  • Encourage their customers to use contactless paying.
  • Have plastic screens installed at tills or between tables.
  • Provide disposable sauce sachets.
  • Using clear guidance and signage, if it is possible, contact customers before they visit via a phone call, your website, or an email. Signs help with controlling queues and also ensuring the establishment is not overcrowded.
  • Communicating with customers to ensure that they have sufficient information before they visit the establishment.
  • Establish rules for using or visiting the bathroom. For instance, displaying posters or signs that show the best hand washing techniques, establishing one in and one out rule, using social distance markers where customers form the bathroom queue, and regularly cleaning the toilets.
  • Manage queues and stagger the entry time. Asking customers to make table reservations ensures that this measure is successful.
  • Ensuring the low capacity rule is adhered to. This can be done by getting rid of some tables and chairs to ensure there is enough distance between customers. Calculating the maximum capacity an establishment can hold while following the social distance rule helps significantly.
  • Turning anyone with Covid symptoms away, whether it is a customer or an employee.
  • Having the NHS test and trace ensures there is a record of the staff, visitors, and customers for 21 days. This rule is a legal requirement. However, there are exemptions to it.
  • Sufficient ventilation needs to be provided if people are present in an enclosed space. This can be achieved through mechanical ventilation using ducts and fans or natural ventilation through vents, doors, and windows. It could also be a combination of these.
  • Using social distance markings to ensure that everyone is adhering to the social distance rule.
  • Customers need to wear masks indoors.
  • Regularly cleaning surfaces, especially those being touched a lot. Both the customers and the staff have to wash their hands and sanitize frequently.
  • Complete a Covid-19 risk assessment. Reasonable adjustments will be made for people with disabilities and the staff of the establishment.
  • Pubs that often show sports can do this by using screens outdoors to show matches, but the volume has to be kept low, and the people drinking have to be quiet.

It also emphasizes that payments have to be taken at tables outdoors for any establishments that serve alcohol. Any hospitality establishments that do not sell alcohol should have their customers order and pick their drinks and food at the counter, but they must eat from the outside.

Venues could put up marques, gazebos, and outdoor shelters, which could have a roof. However, 50% of their wall areas have to be open. It is worth noting that venues should not provide smoking equipment like shisha pipes to their customers.

Restaurant, pub and café owners should also,

  • Lower background music and any noise in their establishments because it will prevent people from dancing, singing, or shouting when they are at the establishment
  • Manage drinks and food service safely. This will help prevent contact between staff and customers and prevent situations where customers have to collect their condiments and cutlery. With indoor service, ensure that one staff member is assigned to a table.
  • Before you reopen, ensure that you have upgraded your cleaning method, and cleaning will be done regularly when you open. Have enough hand sanitizer stations in place and, as mentioned earlier, have cleaning procedures established.
  • The air condition and ventilation systems have to be in good condition.
  • Come up with a way to communicate with customers who are hearing or visually impaired. Most establishments tend to forget that the same rules or measures they have may not apply to everyone.
  • Ensure that they have kept groups apart by spacing out tables, managing the number of customers in the venue, and using barriers between groups.
  • Ensure that they are promoting cleanliness, hygiene, and social distance in the toilets. Hand sanitizer units should be made available, a cleaning schedule should be displayed, and the toilets should be well ventilated. You could also provide additional facilities for collecting waste and ensure you have enough liquid soap supply, running water, and drying options like hand driers or paper towels.

Are All Restaurants, Pubs and Cafes Going to Reopen?

Unfortunately, not all establishments in the hospitality industry are going to reopen. Most venues do not have sufficient space or space outside to make it possible for them to reopen. A very small percentage of the hospitality industry has outside seating in the UK.

While most pubs that offer full-service food have outdoor seating, only a handful of restaurants have outdoor seating. Therefore, indoor seating venues may not open until stage two since indoor seating provides a higher risk of the virus spreading. Businesses like pubs that have no indoor seating are allowed to serve takeaway drinks.

A restaurant, pub, or café owner adhering to the indoor capacity rule could increase their capacity through outdoor seating. Establishments with private land have an advantage because they do not require a permit to place their customers outside by providing extra seating. Restaurants, pubs, and cafes that do not have sufficient space outside could apply for temporary pavement licenses from their local council. This will allow them to extend their seating space outdoors.

It is also worth noting that most councils have eased the application process for a permit, and some have even removed the charges in light of Covid. The council will inform you of any restrictions that apply to extending seating space like the size of furniture you can use, where it can be placed on the pavement, and other factors like how much space has to be freed for pedestrian traffic along the pavement.

Initially, the prime minister had proposed that customers going to pubs should present a vaccine certificate. As mentioned earlier, this rule will not be applicable. Customers will not need to have a vaccine passport to be allowed into these establishments. However, according to the government, it is legal for a business to ask customers coming into their establishment for proof of their Covid status, provided they are not breaking the equalities law.


Restaurants, pubs, and cafes that have outdoor seating are set to reopen on April 26th. There is a possibility that indoor seating will be allowed in time for the Spring Bank Holiday that starts at the end of May.

Northern Ireland

There are no particular dates for Northern Ireland to reopen restaurants, pubs, and cafes. The chances are that they may reopen in step three of their roadmap out of lockdown. Pubs that do not serve food will have to stay closed until further notice. Most pubs will operate on a table service basis only.


In Scotland, as of April 26th, restaurants, pubs, and cafes will,

  • Serve groups of a maximum of four people from two different households
  • Open indoors without serving alcohol up to 2000hrs
  • Open outdoors, and are permitted to serve alcohol, up to 2200hrs

From May 17th, they will be able to,

  • Serve alcohol outdoors up to 2200hrs
  • They will be allowed to serve alcohol indoors and stay open up to 2230hrs. Each customer will be given a two-hour slot.

Beyond May, the Scottish government has not given any further information about when they will ease the restrictions. However, the hope is that establishments in the hospitality industry will stay open at least up to 2300hrs by early June.

The hospitality industry, like most businesses, has significantly been affected by the pandemic. As mentioned earlier, some businesses were forced to close down, and most people lost their jobs and source of livelihood. Therefore, as restaurants, pubs, and cafes reopen, customers and staff at these establishments need to adhere to the rules in place to ensure that they curb the spread of Covid.

Any customer or staff presenting symptoms or supposes that they have contacted Covid should stay isolated and avoid going to a public gathering since they risk infecting others. Observing rules like wearing masks when necessary, washing hands or sanitizing them, and adhering to the social distance will help curb the virus and speed up more establishments opening and normalcy being retained.


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