Brits were overjoyed by Boris Johnson’s announcement to reopen outdoor areas in pubs and restaurants on April 12 as part of the second stage in his national roadmap out of lockdown. However, some landlords are concerned by the overzealous rules imposed by councils which enforces mask-wearing when walking around beer gardens, despite national guidance only suggesting coverings for indoor areas.
Speaking to The Telegraph, CEO of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls, said: “We need local enforcement bodies to be working to support businesses to reopen and to help them reopen rather than putting barriers in the way or creating confusions.
“The fear is people will be wrongly told to wear masks in pub gardens.”
Some councils suggested strict punishments, including fines, for landlords who do not enforce mask wearing on customers when walking around.
Current guidelines only say that face masks must be worn when using the toilets or paying at the bar.
The Government has scrapped a few rules that applied last summer, including the need for customers to order a “substantial meal” with their drinks.
They have also abandoned the need for a 10pm curfew when pubs reopen next week.
Customers are scrambling to get reservations as many pubs and restaurants are already taking bookings for outside tables and given social distancing measures, competition for seating is likely to be high.
Mr Johnson has previously stated that the public will not be able to eat or drink together inside until May 17 at the earliest.
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Drinkers have been advised to bring cash with them to pay for food and drinks, as many restaurants suffer from poor signals for their card machines in their gardens and outdoor areas.
Industry leaders and landlords have previously complained that they can’t take outdoor payments due to licensing restrictions.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in response: “Payment should be taken outdoors where possible, but can be taken indoors as a last resort. This is to limit time indoors where transmission of the virus is higher.”
Ms Nicholls added: “We are pleased that the Government listened to our members’ concerns and has acted pragmatically in the light of our lobbying efforts, revising its guidance to allow for payment indoors.
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“This change means that the four in 10 hospitality venues that are able to open for outdoor trading from Monday 12 April will now be allowed to take payment indoors.
“While paying for food and drinks at the table is still the recommended method, this amended guidance means that pubs, bars and restaurants that do not have the facilities to process a card payment at the table, such as rural pubs with poor internet access, will now be able to process payments inside.”
She continued: “This means that customers will not be forced to pay in cash at such venues, and it should be noted that card and contactless payments remain the safest payment methods during the pandemic.”