Pubs and restaurants face confusion over differing council reopening guidance

12 April 2021 by
Pubs and restaurants face confusion over differing council reopening guidance

Pubs and restaurants in England have told of their frustration at councils enforcing different interpretations of reopening rules.

Some hospitality business owners have been advised that customers and staff must wear masks outside, despite government guidance only requiring face coverings indoors.

Other local authorities have told businesses that guests within groups of six must socially distance from each other. It has since been confirmed distancing is only required between tables of different customers.

Hospitality trade bodies were forced to reissue guidance over the weekend after hearing "often incorrect" interpretations of the rules sent to businesses by some councils.

UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping have urged councils to take a "light-touch but consistent" approach to enforcement.

Nicola Maccabe, general manager of the Grapes at Bamford pub in Rochdale, said she was initially advised by Rochdale Council that staff and customers had to wears masks outdoors.

She told The Caterer: "I rang the council to clarify and they were insistent. Other local pubs have been told the same.

"Things are tough enough as it is and we're getting conflicting messages and guidance all the time. It's frustrating that it's down to [hospitality owners] to chase this up and find out what's the case. I don't see why [the council] need to look at the rules and make their own changes to it."

The Parkers Arms in Newton-In-Bowland tweeted that it had been received similar advice on masks from Ribble Valley Borough Council.

A spokesperson for Rochdale Council said: "Our public protection team has been keeping businesses informed about the national legislation, which says that customers need to wear face coverings at hospitality venues when they're up and moving around, ie, if they're going inside to use the toilet or when walking to their table. Customers don't need to wear a face covering when seated."

A government spokesperson said: "The national government guidance is clear that customers are not expected to wear face coverings outdoors."

The Campaign for Pubs has written to business minister Paul Scully calling for him to provide clarity on the issue.

The group added that much of the government guidance, such as allowing indoor payment if it is not possible outdoors, was left too open to interpretation.

A spokesperson said: "It's such a mess, lots of pubs have no idea whether what councils are telling them is correct or not.

"Saying indoor payments are allowed if outdoor payment ‘isn't possible' isn't clarity at all. What does that actually practically or legally mean and who polices it?

"The government are the ones that insisted on outdoors-only opening, which we said wasn't the right thing to do, [and] they couldn't even get the rules clear."

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing reopening rules and pubs are advised to approach their council if they believe fines have been wrongly issued.

For a round-up of all the important guidance, click here or view UKHospitality's 12-point factsheet here.

Are you having issues with your council over reopening guidance? Get in touch Sophie.witts@thecaterer.com

Photo: Shutterstock

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