Indoors hospitality has finally returned!

Here we bring you the latest guidance, free resources and tips on how you can ensure your business has reopened safely and is following government guidelines.

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We answer some the most frequently asked questions surrounding the reopening of hospitality and what you need to know.

Can restaurants open until late?

The 10pm curfew has now been scrapped so you can now stay open until the usual time that your current license allows.

Can I hold outdoor events?

Last year the government provided greater flexibility for businesses to hold outdoor events such as summer fairs without the need for a planning application. This also applies to businesses such as pubs wishing to set up marquees which will also be exempt from requiring a planning application. The number of days allowed for such temporary events has increased from 28 to 56, and this provision has been extended until 31st December 2021.

Can corporate events start in office environments?

At Step 3, 17 May business events such as conferences, trade shows, exhibitions and private dining events such as charity or gala dinners and awards ceremonies, and corporate hospitality are permitted to resume.  These events can now start but following the rule of 6. Further guidance can be found here.

Can I get a temporary pavement license?

Yes. In 2020, the government introduced a simplified route for pubs, restaurants and cafes to obtain a temporary pavement licence to place furniture including outdoor tables and seating on the highway, allowing them to increase their outdoor capacity quickly and at a low cost. They include a capped application fee of £100 and a 10-working day consultation and determination period.

These temporary provisions which allow removable furniture to be placed on parts of the highway are currently due to expire on 30th September 2021, but the government will be introducing secondary legislation to extend these provisions for a further 12 months, subject to Parliamentary approval.

What should I do about smoking areas outside?

Consider putting the following control measures in place for your outdoor smoking area:

      • Limit the number of people using the smoking area at any one time. Use signage to state the maximum number and staff should regularly check.
      • Use floor markings or barriers to maintain social distancing.
      • Choose a lidded ashtray or cigarette bin which keeps people’s hands away from used butts etc.
      • Display signs reminding people to socially distance, wash hands etc.
      • Provide hand-washing facilities or hand sanitiser near to frequently used areas.

Do we have to have a separate smoking area outside?

It is not mandatory but you may wish to consider non-smoking tables to ensure the comfort of all customers.

What constitutes an enclosed area?

Any outdoor temporary structures which have a roof and are enclosed on all sides except for the entrances/exits are not considered to be outside spaces and their use may be stopped due to a lack of through-ventilation, which is one of the reasons why outside areas are considered a lower risk when it comes to person-to-person spread of COVID-19 infection. If your covered outside area is more than 50% enclosed then you may want to consider removing some of the sides to increase ventilation.

What must I do in terms of ventilation?

There has been a lot of publicity in recent months around the importance of ventilation of indoor spaces and how this can reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. We recommend businesses consider the following:

  • Keep doors open – this will not only allow for air to move through a building and disperse possible virus particles but will also give customers and employees reassurance that all is being done to keep them safe. Although fire exit doors should remain as such!
  • Review the performance of any extraction fans inside toilet facilities to make sure they are working to permit air movement.
  • Opening windows is another way in which to improve ventilation.

Do staff have to wear face coverings when serving in outside areas?

No. Previous and current reading of the law has been that, for employees and customers, face coverings only apply to indoor areas of the premises (exception being if an employee is behind a screen or similar inside).

Practically of course, for example if staff have picked up a tray of drinks/food inside (where a covering is required) to deliver to an outdoor table (where a covering is not required) it will be easier to keep the covering on for practical reasons.

It may also be easier to have a blanket rule for customer facing staff that they wear face coverings inside and outside but it is not mandatory.

Do customers have to wear face coverings outside?

No. This is only a requirement when indoors so for example if they use the toilet.  Businesses should however ensure social distancing in outside queues etc.

Do I need to update the QR code poster displayed at my venue?

If your venue is a hospitality venue in England, there is a new poster design from March 2021. If you printed your NHS QR code poster before this date, you will have received an email on 30 or 31 March 2021 asking you to replace your existing poster:

  • The email subject is: QR Poster ready for <your venue>
  • The email was sent from

If you have not received the email with your new poster, you can apply for a new official NHS QR code poster for your venue at

Can I serve alcohol?

If the applicant has a licence to serve alcohol on-premises, temporary amendments to the Licencing Act 2003, through the Business and Planning Act 2020, currently allow them to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises without needing to apply for a variation of their licence.

More detail can be found at Guidance: Alcohol Licensing.

Will table service be required for food and drink consumed in indoor areas of hospitality?

Yes. At premises serving alcohol customers will be required to order, be served and eat/drink whilst seated.

Is the indoor rule, a maximum of 6 people per table with a maximum of 2 households, or a maximum of 6 people from different households but larger numbers if there are only 2 households?

Indoors you can have 6 people from up to 6 households or as many people as are part of 2 households so for example 2 households of 5 can all sit together at a table that seats 10. Equally one large household of over 6 people can also sit together.

What are the rules in terms of party sizes?

The rule of 6 / two household will be in operation for outdoor dining.

From 17th May outdoor hospitality will be extended to 30 persons and indoor hospitality will be rule of 6 / 2 households.

Do I need to make sure everyone is social distancing?

Social distancing measures have to be adhered to, including one-way systems and table service only.  Make it easy for everyone by putting up signs that your customers can follow.

Can I have a buffet?

For buffets where alcohol is served, table service is required. If a venue is not serving alcohol, customers can order and collect food from a counter or similar.

Can I have a carvery option?

Yes, this can take place where:

  • The customer orders the carvery meal option whilst seated,
  • The customer selects elements of their carvery options from the carvery deck (face covering, socially distanced etc.), but plated by staff.
  • The customer returns to their seat, and is served their meal by staff to their table.

What are the limitations in steam room/sauna use?

Maximum capacity should be restricted to 50%.

The sauna should display signage clearly indicating the new maximum capacity.

Facilities should operate with 2m social distancing in place, including marked seating points in each room.

Where possible, guests should be given fixed times and staggered slots to enter the sauna or steam room.

Increase air flow and air changes to the maximum safe level.

Ensure that saunas, steam rooms and any equipment are cleaned regularly.

  • At the beginning and end of the day and at regular intervals in-between
  • Where possible between users.
  • You should consider how to manage this in your risk assessment.


You can find more information on sauna and steam rooms here

Do we still have to socially distance if everyone tests negative or had a vaccine?

Yes, and this is very important. The rules are the same for people who have had the vaccine or have received a negative test as they are for everyone else. Even if you do not currently have coronavirus, you are at risk of catching it from other people and then passing it on to others and a negative result does not guarantee that you do not have coronavirus. The test might not detect the virus if you were recently infected or are in the incubation at the time of the test.

You must continue to follow coronavirus rules, including:

  • regular hand washing
  • social distancing
  • wearing face coverings where required

How would I dispose of a positive Lateral Flow Test?

Waste from lateral flow device testing is not considered infectious waste (even if positive) and therefore can be disposed of with the usual waste. To safely dispose of the test kit, place all the items from the test and the plastic packaging into a bag and then place in your general waste bin.

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