What could the Government plans mean for customers returning to pubs?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Customer distancing: the Government’s 50-page pandemic recovery plan outlines measures that will affect pubs
Customer distancing: the Government’s 50-page pandemic recovery plan outlines measures that will affect pubs

Related tags: Pub, Restaurant, Hotel, Health, Safety

The Government has set out a 50-page plan to emerge from Covid-19 lockdown that includes advice on three distinct phases and social distancing. But what could this mean for returning pub customers?

In Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy ​published on Monday 11 May, the British Government outlined plans to emerge from Covid-19 lockdown in three stages of recovery, following a speech by Prime Minister Boris Johnson the day before.

“At least some” pubs and hospitality venues are slated to reopen under the third and final phase, which the nation will progress to no earlier than 4 July and only if the Government is convinced that five tests (see box out) have been satisfied.

The Government’s five tests

On 16 April, the Government presented five tests for easing measures and advancing through the three phases of lockdown recovery. These are:

  1. Protect the NHS’s ability to cope. Be confident that sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK is possible
  2. See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from Covid-19
  3. Reliable data must show that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
  4. Be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand
  5. Be confident that any adjustment to the current measures will not risk a second wave of infections that overwhelms the NHS

The document states that “higher-risk” businesses, such as pubs, which are potentially able to reopen in phase three will need to meet sector specific “Covid-19 secure guidelines” when opening their doors to customers. These are to be released this week according to the recovery strategy. 

Detailing this third phase of lockdown recovery, Our plan to rebuild​ also adds: “Some venues that are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.”

It states that venues will have their ability to adopt “Covid-19 secure guidelines” tested and that the Government will establish a series of task forces to work closely with stakeholders across different sectors to develop ways in which they can make these businesses and public places secure. 

What’s more, the document states that measures will need to be enforced to ensure the country is prepared for the challenges that the winter flu season will bring.

As such, a number of social distancing measures that will inevitably have knock-on effects for visitors to venues such as pubs have been outlined in the Government’s 50-page update.

What measures could pub customers face?

Outlined in the recovery strategy under Annex A: Staying safe outside your home​, the Government sets out a number of social distancing measures that it states are to be adopted “wherever possible” and will have repercussions for the way customers engage with a pub environment when they’re allowed to return. 

“The Government is also using these principles as the basis of discussions with businesses, unions, local government and many other stakeholders to agree how they should apply in different settings to make them safer,” the document adds. “All of us, as customers, visitors, employees or employers need to make changes to lower the risk of transmission of the virus.”

What could social distancing in post-pandemic pubs look like?

From potential city-wide open-air café bars to limited capacity and table-service only – how are pubs and bars across the globe planning to reopen under social distancing measures? 

Read more here​.


With this in mind, the Government’s recovery plan states that Public Health England’s recommendation is that Brits stay 2m away from people outside their household as a precaution, meaning that the flow of customers through pubs will likely be affected and that the spacing of covers in pub spaces will need to be monitored. 

As examples, in its Covid-19 Playbook​, Hong Kong-based group Black Sheep Restaurants states that physical distancing will become the “new normal” for the foreseeable future and is currently using every other table to allow guests the space required, while US-based design and strategy firm Streetsense suggests that implementing social distancing policies may yield a 30-50% reduction in covers for weeks, perhaps months.

Additionally, advice that members of the public are to keep their hands and face as clean as possible would likely necessitate pub operators providing additional soap and sanitising products for customers when their sites reopen.

Guidance that people are to avoid being face to face with anyone if they are outside their household will also likely change in the way customers interact with staff during ordering and service, with the Government advice stating that you can lower the risk of infection if standing side-to-side rather than facing, for example.

In addition, the recovery plan advises that indoor spaces are kept well ventilated, and that, in good weather, windows and doors should be left open in places where people from different households come into contact. “Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate,” it states. “Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings.” 

On top of this, Brits are advised to avoid crowds and, if possible, wear a face-covering when in an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible. The Government’s document states: “Home-made cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.

“A face covering is not the same as a face mask such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers.”

Again, Hong Kong-based group Black Sheep Restaurants has, for example, outlined plans to offer diners hygienic storage – for example, a paper bag sealed with a sticker or a sealed envelope – to store any masks, which is something British venues may need to consider. 

In tandem with the setting out of this advice, the Government is also examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance with social distancing advice, with plans afoot to impose higher fines. 

Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy ​can be read in full here​.

Related topics: Health & safety, UnitedWeStand

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