Masks, apps, the rule of six - oh and don't be a dick

From 12 April we can make our pilgrimages back to the pub. 

You’re probably fairly well-versed in venturing out to eat and drink in our pandemic world, but for anyone feeling confused, here is a breakdown of what you can do and when. 

If you aren’t happy with the things that the government requires of you when you visit hospitality settings, please don’t take that out on minimum wage staff

We’ve also included some tips for planning ahead and making sure that you and others around you feel safe and have fun. If you want to include tips in the tip jar for staff going back to work, that's up to you, but it would be very much appreciated, we're sure.

We hope this helps to clear some things up. 

Terrace With Umbrellas Chairs And Sofas At Pointing Dog Cheadle
The terrace at The Pointing Dog, Cheadle, ready for guests

Rules for socialising outdoors

From 29 March

You can now gather outside in a public place or private garden in a maximum group size of six. This means individuals from six different households can meet to form a group. 

You can only gather in a group of more than six if the group comprises only two households. 

If you are in a support bubble, you and your bubble count as one household. This means you and your support bubble can meet with one other household to form a group larger than six. 

You may pass through someone's house to get to their garden if this is the only access point.

You should still maintain social distance from people who are not from your household, continue to use face masks and, of course, wash your hands regularly. 

From 12 April

The countdown is on and we will be able to enjoy hospitality settings outdoors as of 12 April. There is no longer the need for a substantial meal, you can just order drinks if you so choose. Here are our lists of venues that will be opening some outdoor space in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. We are updating this regularly.

From 17 May

This is currently the date on which venues should be able to open their indoor spaces. This is subject to change pending the successful rollout of the vaccine and assessment of a number of other variables.

People Walking Past Maray On The Albert Docks Livepool
Outdoor dining in the sunshine at Liverpool's Albert Docks

Preparing to go out out

Plan ahead

Every venue will be operating uniquely. Many will be opening reduced hours or days in the week. Some will insist on advance bookings, others will have a walk-ins only policy. It’s best to look at venue websites and social media to make sure that you book if needed.

Take your mask

You’ll need your mask as you arrive and leave, and if you need to use the loo. If you want to be extra organised, you could even take spare clean masks in case anyone you’re meeting forgets theirs. If you are medically exempt from wearing a mask, you may want to order yourself a lanyard. You do not need proof of exemption, but it could make your outing more comfortable and help you to avoid being challenged.

Take your sanitiser 

Venues will provide it but it’s not unusual for people to steal soap and sanitiser from the loos, so having your own is a sensible backup.

Grab a big coat

Lots of venues won’t have outdoor heating, so take your big coat and wrap up warm. You should also know that there is no shame in taking a blanket out with you. Swaddle yourself with bold abandon. 

Book your taxi in advance

There will not be a curfew for pubs this time, but it seems venues must adhere to their current outdoor license restrictions. In populated areas, this means it’s likely outdoor areas will close earlier than the venue itself usually would. Book a taxi in advance to avoid waiting around outside at the end of your night.

Tetley Leeds Beer Garden
A beer garden at The Tetley in Leeds ready for visitors

When you’re at the venue

Every visitor provides details

Staff must ask for the contact details of every member of your party for track and trace. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, please don’t argue with staff. They are only following the guidelines they have been given, and there are penalties for non-compliant venues.

Charge your phone

As you may have experienced already, some venues are operating an app ordering service and many require visitors to read menus online. Take a fully charged phone, and maybe even a power bank to make sure you can participate. 

Be observant

Every venue will interpret the government guidelines differently and will have to judge what will work best in the space they have. Most places will be using one-way systems, so take a moment to have a scan for any useful signage. This saves you from any potentially awkward moments and helps staff to manage the flow of people.

Arrive on time

One of the biggest challenges at the best of times is managing bookings and this is made even harder when people are late. If you’re going to be late, call ahead and let the venue know. This gives them the best possible chance of managing any potential issues. This is particularly important as venues are operating at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.

1200 X 800 People Enjoying A Beer Outside At The Refinery Leeds
People enjoying a beer outside at Kirkstall Bridge, Leeds

No no-shows

No-shows have always been the bane of the hospitality industry. In the current climate, they could be potentially fatal to our venues. Nobody will ever be angry with you for calling and saying you can’t make it. They’ll be glad you took the time. It is poor etiquette to book and not show up, even more so to make multiple bookings and choose on the day which one you will honour. Please don’t be that person.

Stay seated

You won’t be able to stand and drink. Tables will be spaced to account for appropriate social distancing and staff will be operating table service. 

Don’t move furniture

Even pre-pandemic this was a weird thing to do, so please don’t do it now. If you need more space, ask a member of staff to sort something out for you. 

Be patient

Staff have been out of the workplace for a while, and they’ve had to navigate a lot of quick policy changes over the last 12 months. We’re all a little rusty socially, which can make getting back into venues a little anxiety-inducing. Just remember that things might take a little longer than usual and that everyone is doing their best to make sure you have a great time. Venues don’t make the rules, they are just doing their best to comply with government guidelines. 

If you aren’t happy with the things that the government requires of you when you visit hospitality settings, please don’t take that out on minimum wage staff who are doing their best to enforce the rules. Their jobs are now far riskier than they ever have been and nobody needs to lose work in the current climate. Covid Enforcement Officers are keeping an eye on businesses, so it’s important that we all avoid causing any issues for the pubs, bars, and restaurants we love. 

Be mindful of other customers

We don’t know what anyone else has been through in the past year. For some, this may be their first outing after shielding or the first time they’ve seen family and friends after illness or loss. Let’s all do our best to be mindful of how we behave in shared spaces, to ensure everyone is able to have an enjoyable time. When we’re drunk, it’s easy to forget social distancing so just be aware of people around you.

If you are concerned about the transmission of Covid-19

If you are worried about catching Covid-19, be assured that outdoor is far safer than indoor. Keep your distance, follow the guidelines above and use your common sense. 

We're excitedly heading back to the bars and restaurants that we have missed very much, just like you. We really want them to be able to stay open and thrive this time. So have fun, stay safe and see you on the terraces.

Follow @anja_madhvani on Twitter

Read next: Our guides to the restaurants and bars open for outdoor dining in Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds