Preparing for 17 May - what are the rules for reopening indoors

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Preparing for 17 May - what are the rules for restaurants pubs hospitality reopening indoors

Related tags: Government, Coronavirus, Social Distancing

With indoor hospitality across much of the UK finally able to reopen on Monday 17 May, we take a look at the Government guidance to see what the rules are.

Do tables have to be socially distanced indoors?
Yes. As with outdoor settings, seating and tables indoors must be reconfigured to follow distancing rules of either two metres, or ‘one metre plus’ with risk mitigations where two metres is not viable. When calculating the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing inside, operators are asked to take into account total space, specific venue characteristics such as furniture, pinch points and busy areas, so as to ensure the venue, including areas of congestion, does not become overcrowded. Using social distance markings to remind customers to maintain social distancing where necessary is also encouraged.

How many people can mix indoors together in one group?
Hospitality venues will be able to serve customers in groups of six people, or two households of any size, indoors. Operators should inform customers of the guidance on mixing through signage or notices when they book or arrive, and ask customers to verbally confirm the number of people in their party at the point of arrival.

Will groups of more than six people have to prove they are from just two households?
Not directly, no. Allowing larger groups is at the restaurant’s discretion. There is nothing in the guidance stipulating that you must ask for proof that groups of more than six people are from just two households, but businesses are reminded that they are legally required to enforce the public health rules laid out in the Government's guidance.

Do the rules differ in Scotland and Wales?
They do, yes. In Wales social contact rules are broadly similar, with six people from any households able to meet indoors. However, a two metre distance between tables is required, and every effort should be made by the business and groups of customers to ensure that they maximise the distance from each other while sat together. Meanwhile, in Scotland, where much of the country is expected to enter Level 2 restrictions from 17 May, up to six adults from three households will be able to meet indoors. However, guests will have to pre-book and are only allowed to stay at the table for a maximum of two hours. Hospitality venues in Scotland are also subject to a 10:30pm curfew under Level 2 restrictions.

Have there been any changes to social contact rules in outdoor settings?
There certainly has. In England, from 17 May, groups of up to 30 people will be able to meet together outdoors, including in hospitality settings. And in Scotland, up to eight people from eight households can meet outdoors, with beer gardens to stay open according to local licensing laws. For Wales, the rule of six applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.

Do customers need to wear masks indoors?
When they are not seated at a table, yes. So customers should wear masks when they arrive and depart from a venue, and also when they go to the toilet or if have to stand to make a payment.

Is table service a requirement?
If your venue serves alcohol, table service will be required. Even if no alcohol is ordered, customers must be served, eat and drink while seated. If your venue does not serve alcohol, however, customers can order and collect food and drink from a counter. They must consume the food and drink while seated at a table, though.

Are staff required to wear masks indoors?
Yes. The guidance makes clear that staff are required to wear masks in indoor hospitality settings. However, it is not mandatory that they are worn outdoors, but staff can choose to if they wish. It says: “Employers must ensure all staff of venues that provide food and drink wear face coverings in indoor areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public, unless they have an exemption. Employers must not, by law, prevent their staff from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so.” Businesses are expected to provide face masks for staff as part of their health and safety obligations. However, staff are welcome to use their own face coverings if they choose.

What's the deal with track and trace?
As before, the guidance states that: “The opening up of the economy is reliant on NHS Test and Trace being used to minimise transmission of the virus.” As such, the requirements around Test and Trace remain pretty beefy. It is still mandatory to ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to check in to your venue or provide their contact details. This can be done using the NHS Covid-19 app to scan in the NHS QR code poster. However, businesses are also required to have a system in place to ensure that you can collect information from your customers and visitors who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the NHS Covid-19 app. In these cases, operators must keep this data for 21 days, and provide it to NHS Test and Trace if it is requested. Businesses operating a service where food and drink is not for consumption on the premises are not required to comply with these requirements.

Do I have to deny entry to customers who don’t comply with track and trace?
Yes. The guidance is clear that businesses must “take reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide contact details”.

To read the complete, updated Government guidance, click here​.

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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