Outdoor hospitality reopening in England – what you need to know

09 April 2021 by
Outdoor hospitality reopening in England – what you need to know

Hospitality businesses in England will be able to reopen outdoor spaces such as alfresco pavement seating and beer gardens from Monday 12 April – but what do operators need to be aware of and what has changed since venues were last able to open?

Serving outdoors and table service

From Monday, outdoor areas at hospitality venues can reopen to serve customers in groups of up to six people or two households.

To be considered ‘outdoors', shelters, marquees and other structures can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open while in use.

At any premises serving alcohol, customers will be required to order, be served and eat and drink while seated (even if no alcohol is ordered). If a hospitality venue does not serve alcohol, then customers can order and collect food and drink from a counter but must consume food and drink while seated at a table.

Venues can also provide takeaway alcohol, but takeaway food and drink must not be consumed on or adjacent to the premises.

Staff must wear face coverings in indoor areas, unless they are separated from customers by a screen or something similar. Face coverings do not need to be worn outdoors by staff or customers.

Can customers go inside?

Customers are allowed indoors to use toilets, baby changing rooms or breastfeeding rooms.

Guests must wear face coverings inside, but staff are not responsible for enforcing this law, while payment should be taken at the table or outdoors where possible. If it's not possible, payment can be taken indoors, where the customer should wear a face covering unless exempt.

Only one customer should be indoors at any time for the purpose of making payment, and businesses should operate a tab system to ensure customers do not need to make multiple indoor payments during their time at the venue.

What are the rules around Test and Trace?

Businesses are now legally required to keep a record of all customers, visitors and staff over the age of 16 who have visited the premises for 21 days for Test and Trace purposes – not just lead bookers. They must also take "reasonable steps" to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide contact details and customer details must be taken before an order is made.

However, prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that venues will not have to ask customers for Covid status certification.


Hotels must remain closed for leisure stays until 17 May at the earliest, but self-contained accommodation can also open on Monday in England.

This means accommodation in which facilities including kitchens, sleeping areas, bathrooms and areas such as lounges and sitting areas, and any lifts, staircases or internal corridors used to access the accommodation are restricted to exclusive use of a single household or support bubble. A reception area should only be used for the purposes of check-in.

Hotels can offer takeaway or outdoor food and drink as well as reopen indoor and outdoor sport facilities such as swimming pools and gyms, spas and retail. These facilities can open even where access is via shared indoor communal areas such as lifts or corridors, as long as those areas are used solely to access the facilities and not to access accommodation. Saunas and steam rooms must remain closed.

Weddings and events

From Monday, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are permitted for up to 15 people in Covid-secure venues that can open under wider rules.

Receptions can take place outside with up to 15 people, but this must be in the form of a sit-down meal. Outdoor structures such as marquees can be used.

People can look around venues with a view to making a future business-related booking, as long as Covid guidelines such as social distancing are followed.

Covid-19 testing for hospitality employees

The government has made free rapid home testing available for all businesses with more than 10 employees that cannot offer on-site testing. Companies have until 12 April to register for the scheme, which will last until June.

Employers with fewer than 10 people can access regular testing through the community testing programme, which is now offered by all local authorities in England.

You can read the guidance in more detail here for restaurants, pubs and bars, here for hotels and here for weddings and celebrations.

UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeepers and British Beer and Pub Association have put together a document outlining guidance for reopening and to help businesses to push back on incorrect enforcement which can be accessed here.

Outdoor hospitality in Scotland and Wales are hoped to reopen on 26 April, while businesses in Northern Ireland are still yet to receive an indicative reopening date.

Photo: Shutterstock

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