‘Absolutely no way’ operators can unofficially enforce restrictions

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Fed up: Customers refusing to obey rules could affect staff welfare (Getty/ recep-bg)
Fed up: Customers refusing to obey rules could affect staff welfare (Getty/ recep-bg)

Related tags Coronavirus Legislation Social responsibility Manchester Customer satisfaction

UK Government must make an official decision on hospitality Covid measures, otherwise staff could face "fed up" customers refusing to obey unofficial rules, said the owner of the Atlas Bar in Manchester.

Despite most Christmas bookings being cancelled, Mark Wrigley said the city-centre location of his bar meant footfall was higher than expected. Customers were still coming to ‘unofficially’ celebrate Christmas.

He said: “A lot of people are staying away and being very cautious, but the people coming out now are probably less concerned about getting Covid; they might be double or triple jabbed or have a particular perspective on the situation.”

This comes after face masks were deemed non-compulsory in hospitality settings under new Plan B measures, with NHS Covid Passes becoming mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where crowds gather.

Fed up customers

For Wrigley, if the Government wanted to enforce measures such as social distancing, table service and screens at hospitality venues, they must make an official decision rather than leaving it up to operators.

He hopes the Prime Minister will put a plan into place sooner rather than later. There was “absolutely no way” operators could enforce those restrictions unofficially as customers would completely ignore them.

“The first time around, everybody behaved themselves; there were no issues at all. However, I get a sense right around the country that a lot of people are pretty fed up with the restrictions,” he said.

Wrigley worried about his team’s welfare, who could face rudeness from customers when trying to enforce rules. This would raise anxiety levels with everyone trying to do the right thing.

Rude behaviour

Wrigley is not alone in this concern: research from Stella Artois and YouGov revealed 41% of hospitality workers were concerned customers would be ruder this winter, with 40% reporting rude behaviour had worsened since the lifting of lockdown measures earlier this year.

“I worry that some people will have some attitude and refuse,” he said. “Anyone that doesn't want to wear a mask could just say, ‘I'm exempt’, and there's nothing we can do”.

On 17 December, Chancellor Rishi Sunak reiterated that there are “existing support measures” for the hospitality sector, responding to calls for further support to be issued for hospitality venues due to widespread cancellations.

According to Wrigley, new measures would have to come with due economic aid such as furlough and grant support to help rebuild bank balances. “We’re going to get completely wiped out if we’re forced to operate without support,” said the operator. “I dread the thought of it”.

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