Some overzealous local councils have reportedly ordered drinkers to wear masks in pub gardens, going beyond government reopening guidance, with landlords worried they might be penalised for perceived breaches of the rules.
Under the next phase of reopening England following the third lockdown, outdoor hospitality venues may open from Monday, meaning that many pubs will take advantage of their beer gardens to reinvigorate their businesses.
Government guidelines only mandate mask-wearing indoors — such as to go inside the pub to pay or use the toilets — but some in the hospitality industry have told The Telegraph they have been told by local councils that mask rules apply outside in the beer gardens.
A notice seen by the newspaper from Ribble Valley Borough Council in Lancashire allegedly told pubs that masks “must be worn by customers, except when seated to eat or drink”.
One landlady, Stosie Madi, told the newspaper that her local council had established a “task force” which will “enforcing” masks in pub gardens.
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“For me the worry is, what happens when a task force comes into my garden and sees a customer walking from his table and going to his car without a mask?” Ms Madi said.
Another pub in Rochdale had received a similar notice from its local council, while Kate Nichols of UK Hospitality said she had heard similar stories from other pubs around England. Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pubs Association, said she was also “aware of inconsistencies amongst councils and local authorities”.
The reports represent the latest challenges for pubs and the reopening of Britain.
While announcing this week that vaccine passports would not be needed for hospitality venues, a revised government document said: “It is possible that COVID-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings.”
Adding that “COVID-status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes”.
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