Pub and restaurant groups plan to retain masks and social distancing beyond 19 July

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Pub and restaurant groups plan to retain masks and social distancing beyond 19 July Martin Williams Gaucho City Pub Group Kate Nicholls

Related tags Coronavirus Government PPE Martin Williams Gaucho M Restaurants

Hospitality groups including Martin Williams' Rare Restaurants and City Pub Group are planning to continue with mask-wearing rules and social distancing beyond 19 July.

Despite the Government planning to remove most Coronavirus restrictions and instead encourage people to use their own judgment to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infections, some businesses have said they intend to retain some measures until they feel confident enough to stop.

Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants, which operates the 16-strong Gaucho chain and three M Restaurants, tells BigHospitality ​that all of his restaurants will continue to implement Covid-safe measures for the benefit of both staff and customers.

This will include daily ‘workday’ testing of staff; masks to be worn by front of house and kitchen staff; social distancing of 'one metre plus' between tables; and 'non-contact dining experiences' offered upon request.

“Whilst we welcome the lifting of enforced restrictions for the sector, at Gaucho and M, we will continue to implement most our Covid-secure policies, to ensure that both our guests and our people can feel safe and fully relax in our venues and enjoy the world class hospitality for which we are famed," he says.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (5 July) that he hopes to scrap almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England later this month​ when the country moves to the last phase of its Coronavirus lockdown roadmap.

Wearing face coverings will no longer be compulsory, and hospitality businesses will no longer be required to collect customer details for track and trace.

All remaining restrictions on social contact will be removed, and the requirement for pubs and restaurants to only operate table service is to be scrapped.

A final decision on whether to go ahead with the plan will be taken on 12 July, and is expected to come into effect on 19 July.

Williams adds that although there will be signage encouraging guests to wear masks in all Rare Restaurants venues, as the Government has dropped this as a legal requirement it will not be something that's aggressively enforced.

"We are in the business of providing hospitality in a safe environment and will leave moral and personal responsibility to each individuals own judgement and needs” he says.

City Pub Group, which has 45 pubs across the southern half of England and Wales, has also announced that masks will be encouraged after 19 July, and as much table service as possible will continue to avoid customers crowding for orders at the bar.

Chief executive Clive Watson told the BBC​: "We don't want a free-for-all scrum at the bar, loads of people queuing up."

Staff will also be encouraged to continue to wear masks, and Watson wants to maintain half of all orders coming through the group's app.

A number of independent restaurants have also chosen to continue implementing Covid-safe measures, including Victor Garvey's Michelin-starred London Soho restaurant SO|LA.

In a social media statement posted on Monday following the Prime Minister's announcement, the restaurant said: "While we appreciate the Government guidance, we will be keeping our social distancing, masking, and temperature checks in place until we feel confident enough to stop.

"The safety and comfort of our staff and customers is our highest priority."

Kate Nicholls, chief exective of UKHospitality, noted earlier this week​ that masks, table service and the 'rule of six' will likely continue in some hospitality venues after 19 July.

“There's going to be customers who are expecting everything to fall away and there's going to be places that they won't be able to do that," she told The Telegraph​.

“If you do feel confident, you're very happy to go to a pub that is crowded, it's showing football and people are standing up, and if you are a more reticent consumer then you're going to look for ones where it's table service.”

Nicholls has also warned some local councils could try to force hospitality businesses to be more strict with the rules.

“I think there might be a temptation of local authorities, that needs to be resisted, to put in place actual fixed regulations or rules that are more restrictive than they need to be.”

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