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Can you watch sport in bars again? How pubs and restaurants will operate in the new normal

PUBLISHED: 13:11 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:11 24 June 2020

Watching sport in a Norwich pub before lockdown. Pic: Archant

Watching sport in a Norwich pub before lockdown. Pic: Archant

Can we watch live sports matches in pubs? How can we enjoy a bar meal?

Following the prime minister’s reopening of many businesses including pubs, restaurants and bars from July 4, a 43 page-document was issued with some of the details on exactly how they would operate in the new normal.

Generally, owner must consider social distancing guidelines - Boris Johnson reduced the measure from two metres to a one metre-plus rule - including where customers are sitting, waiting outside and in outdoor areas.

Sport, music and quizzes

Pubs across Norfolk have been told they can open from July 4 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson  Picture: Getty ImagesPubs across Norfolk have been told they can open from July 4 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson Picture: Getty Images

The government accepts for many pubs, restaurants and bars “entertainment such as recorded music, live sports broadcasts, quizzes, live musicians or comedians are an important part of their business”.

However, it is currently restricting such activities because of the risks of “aerosol transmission” of Covid-19.

The guidelines state “all venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other”.

They say it 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.

The Artichoke pub in Magdalen Road. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe Artichoke pub in Magdalen Road. Picture: Neil Didsbury

It underlines that businesses should “prevent entertainment, such as broadcasts, that is likely to encourage audience behaviours increasing transmission risk. For example, loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting”.

It also states businesses have to prevent large gatherings and currently are not allowed to permit live performances including drama, comedy and music to take place in front of a live audience.

But it states it will develop further guidance based on scientific evidence to enable these activities as soon as possible.

Customer records and numbers

The guidelines do say business owners – including publicans and bar staff – should keep a “temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business”.

More details on how this complies with GDPR rules will be issued soon.

Currently the rules on indoor gatherings are still restricted, with only two households, including support bubbles, allowed to meet indoors. Outdoor gatherings should only be occurring in groups of up to two households (or support bubbles), or a group of at most, six people from any number of households.

“It is against the law to gather in groups of more than 30 people, except for the limited circumstances as set out in law,” it says.

The government urges local authorities not to grant licences for events that could lead to large gatherings and states it has the right to close down venues which do so.

MORE: Hairdressers’ relief at reopening news as requests for ‘illicit’ home visits rocket

Table service and electronic devices for ordering

Regarding serving customers indoors, the guidelines state tables must be used where possible alongside further measures such as “assigning a single member of staff per table”.

Outdoor table service should be encouraged and people are allowed to stand outside a venue if distanced appropriately.

Where a bar or counter service is unavoidable, customers will be asked not to remain standing there after placing an order.

People using pens or documents for work; for instance when taking an order, need to ensure they do not share these with others.

It may mean businesses have to increase their staff numbers, with the guidelines clear that firms need to “consider whether you have enough appropriately trained staff to keep people safe. For example, having dedicated staff to encourage social distancing or to manage security”.

For workers, the guidelines advise using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible with each other. Staff are advised to work in fixed teams with partnering so works only come in contact with some others and not all staff.

In restaurants, kitchen staff are being advised to communicate using electronic devices to minimise the risk of too much face to face contact too and unnecessary movement within venues.

The guidelines state people should be encouraging use of radios, telephones or other electronic devices when sending orders from service areas to kitchens, where permitted, and cleaning them between use.

Wetherspoons, for example, has an app on which its customers can order food and drink.

They are urged to operate a one way system and to minimise the number of people allowed to access, say a walk-in pantry, to one at a time.

Business owners also need to keep a temporary record of staff shift patterns for 21 days to comply with the NHS Test and Trace system.

The prime minister reopened many businesses in his speech to the House of Commons in which he said it was the ”beginning of lifting the country out of hibernation”.


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