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May 17 lockdown easing: What are the rules and next steps as pubs and restaurants reopen?

As lockdown eases, life finds a way

By @dvh_ellis
10 June 2021

nd we’re off! Lockdown continues to ease, and life seems to regaining some semblance of its usual shape.

After five weeks of some heavenly al fresco afternoons – and a fair few literal wash-outs – London’s restaurants, pubs and bars will finally be able to welcome customers inside from May 17, when indoor eating and drinking is permitted once more.

The Prime Minister confirmed the news in his announcement on Sunday. Mr Johnson said: “The data reflects what we already knew — we are not going to let this virus beat us.” Repeating his mantra that the UK would be “unlocking cautiously but irreversibly”, it seems as though the great interruption may finally be passing, at least in the UK.

The news comes as a third of the UK adult population has been fully inoculated against the virus and 35 million people have had their first jab. Covid deaths – those reported with 28 days of a positive test – now are mostly down to single figures, or in the low teens.

The next step will follow in five weeks’ time, on June 21, when it’s hoped that all legal limits on social contact will be removed, and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen after over a year kept closed.

Food. Bars. Going out. Delivered weekly

While guidelines have now been given, in order for anything to open, ministers must be satisfied that four key requirements are being met. The quartet of tests will look to ensure that: 1) the vaccine roll-out continues successfully; 2) there is evidence that the vaccine is effectively reducing the number of hospitalisation and deaths; 3) infection rates do not risk putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS; 4) the assessment of these risks is not fundamentally changed by new Covid variants.

When will restaurants, pubs and bars reopen?

Looking for a sign: pubs are facing a difficult future and have asked for clarity on reopening

/ Christian Adams

Things are now opening and the usual run of things is being restored. The rules for hospitality are as follows:

May 17

  • Restaurants, pubs and bars may reopen for indoor dining.
  • Customers should check in to venues using the NHS app.
  • Masks must be worn on arrival and when leaving, as well as when away from the table (for instance, when walking to the loos).
  • Table service only – standing at the bar will not return until June.
  • Hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts are allowed to reopen.
  • Groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors.
  • Six people or two households can meet indoors.
  • Theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadiums may all reopen, including any refreshment areas or restaurants.
  • Socialising indoors in other people’s homes is allowed, in groups of six or a maximum of two households.
  • Big events can go ahead with maximum crowds of 1,000 people or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower.

June 21

  • Though it will be no earlier than June 21, it is hoped that by June 21 all limits can be removed.
  • Nightclubs and live events will be allowed to return, and wedding venues will receive guidance on the numbers permitted.
  • This will be subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events of larger sizes.

For the full roadmap, head to this page.