Wearing face coverings in English shops will become mandatory from 24 July. As it stands, they are only compulsory to wear on public transport and in hospitals.
Pubs across the country have already either offered their staff the option of wearing one or made it part of their reopening policy.
Joe Cussens is the managing director of the four-site strong Bath Pub Company and told The Morning Advertiser the policy was part of restoring customers’ confidence that pubs were taking safety seriously.
Cussens said: “We think it is the right thing to do. We are going to review it [this week] but for now, what it says is that it shows you're taking the subject seriously."
Covering up a welcoming smile is seen by some as the antithesis to hospitality. However, Cussens said it is a necessary adjustment given the Covid-19 crisis and people’s fears.
He explained: “If you'd asked me six months ago, the idea of my staff serving customers with face masks I would have laughed you out of the building, and said never in a million years it sends completely the wrong message.
“Actually, given the time we are in, it is the right thing and weirdly customers find it reassuring in the world we are in.”
Although there has been some debate about the effectiveness of masks in reducing the transmission of coronavirus, Cussens said they encouraged customers and staff to have confidence.
He explained: "It’s also perception because how much difference they make is up for debate, evidence is inclusive and flimsy some would say but that's not really the issue. It’s about what effect do they have on customers feeling happy to come back to the pub.”
Mark Thornhill runs the Inn on the Beach with his wife Penny, on Hayling Island, Hampshire and agrees the coverings are part of the new normal for venues.
Staff can choose between a cloth or disposable face mask or a shield and have predominantly opted for the coverings.
Thornhill said: “People are used to it and it's not something strange. It's a whole new world. We just have to be so careful and everyone understands that.”
He said it made staff feel tired but they were happy to take the precaution to protect themselves and others.
Thornhill explained: “When you are physically trying to move around somewhere, trying to get the oxygen in, it can be quite tiring. Lots of people also complain about sore ears."
Responding to a social media post from The Morning Advertiser, some operators said they found it hard to communicate with masks on or they decided against requiring staff to wear them in favour of other Covid-secure measures.
One operator said on Facebook: “We have them available, clear face shields too. No staff have so far chosen to wear them. Customers have responded well to the sanitiser stations we have put everywhere better than a face mask. Visible hand cleanliness is key in our opinion.”
Another said they struggled to operate while wearing the coverings.
We all wore face masks in front on house for one day and found it impossible. Breathing, talking was difficult and customers were finding it hard to understand us not to mention we couldnt smile and show how happy we were to welcome back our customers!!— The Purefoy Arms (@thepurefoyarms) July 9, 2020
A publican from the Horse and Groom, Bittaford, Devon, said: “We are [wearing masks] when serving to tables and have them available for all team members so if they feel they want to wear one even behind screens then they can, we want our team to feel as safe and as comfortable as each customer. Certainly challenging times for us all.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that non-medical face coverings should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible.