It's been a long time coming, but in exactly 10 days time the people of the UK will be reunited with their greatest love: the pub. Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs and restaurants are set to reopen on July 4th after a long, dark period of being shut.
But considering coronavirus hasn't just gone away, pubs, restaurants, bars and takeaway services will have to follow a strict set of rules to make sure they're preventing any possible spread of the virus. Which is fair enough. It means the 'going out' experience will look pretty different to what we've been used to, but that's better than no going out at all, right?
Here's how pubs et all will look different when they finally reopen their doors to the adoring public:
You'll probably have to book
The government urges drinking establishments to carefully manage the number of customers at any given venue, so that all indoor customers can be seated with appropriate distancing, and those outdoors have appropriately spaced seating or standing room. They advise that this can be done through reservation systems, which means you'll likely have to book a table for a drink at the pub. Alternatively, venues can opt to have social distancing markings instead.
They'll have to take your data
In their official guidance, the government urges venues to keep "a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business". The reason is so that the data can be used for NHS Test and Trace to prevent clusters or outbreaks if cases of coronavirus are reported in a place you're known to have been at. Don't worry, though, it shouldn't mean you're opening yourself up to a stream of unwanted marketing emails from pub chains aplenty; the government says any information should be kept "in line with data protection legislation".
There could be staggered entry times
It's currently illegal for groups of more than 30 people to gather in the UK, which means the government is asking businesses located in an area where there are a number of venues to consider staggering their entry times with neighbouring pubs, restaurants and bars, to ensure queues don't build up and clusters of people can't gather in the surrounding areas.
There'll be less people
A blessing, perhaps? Pubs are known for being crowded, which is arguably part of the atmosphere, but going forward, establishments will be requested to limit the number of customers allowed in, by calculating the maximum number that can fit while reasonably following social distancing guidelines (ideally 2m apart, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not possible).
It'll be table service
The main thing the government seems concerned about is avoiding queues, and one of the ways they foresee preventing these is to have members of staff "bringing payment machines to customers where possible". They are keen to minimise the number of surfaces that are touched by staff and customers, so asking customers to remain at a table is the preferred solution.
"Indoor table service must be used where possible, alongside further measures such as assigning a single staff member per table. Outdoor table service should also be encouraged, although customers are permitted to stand outside if distanced appropriately," the guidance instructs. And that kind of lazy pub-going is absolutely fine by me; at least there'll be no arguing about whose turn it is to go up to the bar.
You may have to order through an app
Even lazier pub-going - but for a good reason. If business can get customers to order drinks or food contactless, over an app, this is encouraged as it'll prevent the build-up of queues.
There'll be hand sanitiser everywhere
Which is no doubt a good thing. The guidance asks pubs and other venues to encourage customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter.
Tables won't be set at restaurants
In order to minimise cross-contamination, it's advised that restaurants and other food-serving establishments provide cutlery and condiments for patrons only when the food is being served. The government also recommends using disposable condiments where possible, to avoid multiple hands touching the same bottle.
Staff will clean up after you even more than usual
Sure, part of working in a bar is to collect glasses, but it's often a helpful thing to set your used glass back on the bar once you're finished with it. Those kind of gestures will be advised against when pubs reopen, however. "Adjust processes to prevent customers from congregating at points of service. For example, having only staff collect and return empty glasses to the bar," reads the government guidance.
There'll be less staff
So you might have to practice your patience. The government urges establishments to plan work rotas around "the minimum number of people needed at the venue to operate safely and effectively." So it might not be the quickest pint you've ever received, but the staff are only doing their best under the circumstances.
It'll be a lot quieter
The government hopes that with less noise, there'll be less risk of virus transmission, because people won't be shouting over the music and inadvertently spitting all over one another. Lovely. "All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other," reads the guidance. "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."
There'll be no drunken dancing
No loud music = no urge to get up and perform the Tik Tok routine you learned over lockdown with your mates. Communal dancing is deemed a "close contact activity" by the government, and is therefore risky. Sorry, you'll have to stick to dancing around your living room.
It won't be so hot
Pubs and bars are also famed for their... er, sticky atmosphere. It gets hot when you cram a load of excitable people in one place, basically. But the guidance warns against that, encouraging establishments to use ventilation systems where possible, like air con. The. Dream.
Now you know all the changes that will come into play, enjoy that first trip down the pub in a week's time.
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