What are the rules for pubs, restaurants, festivals and gigs?


Near-normal service is expected to resume in pubs and restaurants in England and Scotland from 19 July.

Nightclubs can reopen in England, and summer festivals and gigs will also be able to go ahead without Covid rules limiting audience numbers.

What is changing in England?
Most Covid restrictions will be lifted from 19 July.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants people “to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus”.

In pubs, cafes and restaurants:

  • capacity limits lifted
  • social distancing guidance removed
  • no rule of six or two households at one table
  • end of table service only
  • face coverings no longer mandatory, but use recommended in enclosed, crowded public spaces
  • no legal requirement to check-in to a venue using the NHS Covid app, although customers can if they wish

At music venues and events:

  • no limits on numbers at concerts, theatres or sports events
  • nightclubs can reopen
  • communal singing allowed
  • no legal requirement to check-in to a venue using the NHS Covid app, although customers can if they wish

The government says it would like nightclubs and music event organisers to ask for proof of vaccination, although they won’t be legally forced to. Likewise, there’s no law requiring club- and festival-goers to show their pass, if they choose not to.

However, the government says it reserves the right to make showing the pass compulsory at a later date.

You will still have to self-isolate if you have Covid symptoms, test positive or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

What are the rules until 19 July?
In pubs, cafes and restaurants:

  • Groups of six, or two households of any size, can meet inside
  • Groups of 30 can meet outside
  • People must order, eat and drink while seated, where alcohol is served
  • Social distancing encouraged and capacity limits
  • All customers over 16 should check in with NHS test and trace or provide contact details

At music venues/events:

  • Indoor and outdoor events can take place, but with social distancing between groups and limited attendance
  • Cap for most indoor events is 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity (whichever is lower). Outdoors it is 4,000 or 50%
  • Some summer festivals are still planning to go ahead as planned, but others have been cancelled altogether, gone online, or been rescheduled.

Notting Hill Carnival taken off the streets again
Kendal Calling festival cancelled for second year
Organisers of the Latitude (late July), Reading and Leeds (late August) festivals say they will “sell to capacity” and are not inclined to encourage those attending to wear masks.

What will change in Scotland on 19 July?
All parts of Scotland will move to Covid-protection level zero, with a few changes:

  • Hospitality venues can open until midnight, regardless of local licensing rules (currently, venues in level 0 follow local licensing rules, but will have to follow the stricter rules)
  • Ten people from four households can meet indoors
  • Fifteen people from 15 households can meet outdoors
  • No requirement to pre-book two-hour slots at pubs or restaurants
  • Face coverings still required except when seated
  • Customers still required to provide contact details for Test and Trace
  • Nightclubs and adult entertainment remain closed

Under-12s won’t count towards group sizes or the number of households.

There will be a 400-person limit for indoor events, 1,000 for outdoor standing events and 2,000 for outdoor seated events.

Until 19 July, most areas of Scotland are in level 1 or 2.

Level two areas:

  • Venues open until 22:30 indoors, two-hour pre-booked slots
  • Outdoors, local licensing rules
  • Six people from three households can meet indoors
  • Eight people from eight separate households can meet outdoors
  • Level one areas:
  • Venues open until 23:00 indoors
  • Outdoors, local licensing rules
  • Eight people from three households can meet indoors
  • Twelve people from 12 households can meet outdoors

Scotland is aiming to remove all major legal Covid restrictions by 9 August.

What’s happening in Northern Ireland?
Restrictions are due to be relaxed on 26 July (subject to approval on 22 July).

Indoor gigs and concerts will be allowed without noise restrictions, as long as the audience stay in their allocated seats.

Social distancing rules will be removed for outdoor events and relaxed indoors.

Under current rules:

  • Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can open indoors and outdoors
  • Six customers per table from six households (children under 13 not counted)
  • Single household groups of up to 10 permitted
  • Live music performances at “ambient levels” are allowed, but dancing is not
  • No attendance limit at indoor and outdoor events but risk assessments must be carried out

What about Wales?
At the moment, up to six people from different households can meet indoors at pubs, cafes and restaurants.

People who do not live together, or are not in bubbles, should remain socially distanced, 2m (6ft) apart.

Business owners are responsible for making their premises as safe as possible:

  • Children under 11/working carers not counted
  • Licensed premises can offer table service only, with measures to support physical distancing
  • Customers must wear face coverings when not seated
  • Customers are encouraged to pre-book and must provide contact details

The maximum number of people allowed at outdoor “regulated gatherings” – such as festivals and concerts – is 4,000 standing and 10,000 seated. Capacity rules for indoor music and comedy venues have already relaxed a little.

From 17 July, organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 seated and up to 200 standing.

From 7 August, if conditions allow, there will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet others in places like pubs and restaurants. Masks will also no longer be required in hospitality settings. All businesses currently closed – such as nightclubs – will be allowed to reopen subject to ongoing risk assessments.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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