Explained: The rules we will have to follow when pubs reopen on April 12

Drinkers raise their pints at The Woolpack
in Ipswich Picture: Sonya Duncan

Drinkers raise their pints at The Woolpack in Ipswich. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

We are just days away from being able to enjoy a meal or drink outside at our favourite pubs and restaurants on April 12 - so what rules will be in place?

Boris Johnson has confirmed the hospitality industry will be able to reopen its gardens from Monday, before fully welcoming customers back inside on May 17.

When the tier system was introduced last autumn, we saw the introduction of a controversial curfew, ordering food to get an alcoholic drink and wearing face masks when leaving the table, but which of these rules will return?

Where in the pub will I be allowed to go?

Customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated outside. 

However, you will be allowed to move about the restaurant to go to the toilet and when being shown to your table, but you will need to wear a mask when doing so. 

Many pubs and restaurants have bought marquees or tipis to protect diners from the changeable weather, such as The Lion Brasserie in East Bergholt.


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To qualify as an outside space, these coverings must not be enclosed. 

Andy Barlow, landlord at the Steamboat Tavern in Ipswich, said a one-way system will return to the pub and many restrictions will be similar to what was in place before Christmas.

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His pub can seat around 60 people in its beer garden, which is also lucky to have its own open barn, which has three sides enclosed to help when the weather is cold. 

He said: "Last time it was very unknown but we are used to things now and can be very prepared. All our tables are two metres apart, and we have the usual hygiene practices in place.

"We have a couple of heaters, fire pits and chimeneas for if it is does get too cold."

Will there be a curfew?

The controversial 10pm curfew (later 11pm) - which was very unpopular with the hospitality industry - has been scrapped.

This means there will be no rushing to finish your food or get the last drinks in. 

But you may not want to hang about on chillier evenings.

Will I have to wear a face mask?

Once you are sat at your table, no, but on arrival and whenever you are moving around the premises, yes. 

This rule does not apply to those who are exempt from wearing face coverings for medical reasons. 

Mr Barlow said at the Steamboat Tavern all staff will be wearing face coverings and guests will be asked to do so when getting up from their tables. 

Do I have to order a 'substantial meal' with a drink?

No - the Government's requirement that alcoholic drinks can only be ordered alongside a substantial meal has also been dropped. 

When the tiers system was introduced late last year, people had to order a meal to be able to order any alcohol, leaving wet-led pubs unable to open.

There was a lot of debate and confusion over what was classed as "substantial", with one pub in Gosfield going viral for creating its own £1.99 ‘Boris menu’ to attract Tier 2 customers.

Who can I go with?

Tables are limited to either six people or two households. No indoor mixing will be allowed.

What social distancing rules will I have to follow?

Tables will be kept the safe distance apart and there will be markers on floors and others surfaces throughout pubs to aid social distancing, such as in the toilet queues or when entering the premises.

Many places will stick to their one-way systems, capacity will be lower and many will have hand sanitising stations. All staff will be asked to wear masks. 

At the Steamboat Tavern, Mr Barlow said there will be hand sanitiser stations at the entrance, exit and dotted around the premises. 

He said to ensure people stay socially-distanced, and to abide by the guidelines, all orders will be done at the table as well as any payments.

Will I need to have the vaccine?

No. There will be no requirement to have had the vaccine before visiting the hospitality sector on April 12. 

But, it is hoped that all adults will have received their first dose of the jab by the end of July - a promising route back to some kind of normality. 

Do I have to pre-book?

There is no requirement to pre-book, however most places are advising customers to reserve a table in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Some places, such as Isaacs at the Waterfront and the Revolution in Ipswich, are working on a first come, first served basis and will involve queuing in a socially-distanced line. 

At the Steamboat Tavern, Mr Barlow has asked customers to call the pub directly to book, and said already April 17 is fully booked. 

"People are desperate to get back to the pub so we are hoping for good weather," he said. 

"They want to socialise and see people who they haven't seen in months and months, so it will be good to be back."

The Steamboat Tavern will be open on Monday, April 12 due to demand, and will then return to opening Wednesday through to Sunday until restrictions ease again in May.

For a full list of pubs and restaurants opening in Suffolk from Monday see here.

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