While bad weather at the beginning of last week hampered the reopening of outdoor hospitality in some parts of the country, many venues were blessed through the week with sunshine, bringing plenty of Brits out to visit pubs and restaurants for the first time since before Christmas. The rule that all customers must sit outdoors has led to large crowds gathering at makeshift beer gardens in city centres, making it difficult for police to enforce social distancing guidelines. The Telegraph has the story.
Covid rules forcing people to eat and drink outside pubs and restaurants have left police in an impossible position with officers unsure how to deal with large crowds…
In city centres across the country, closed off roads were transformed into makeshift party venues with bars and restaurants offering outdoor seating for customers.
But despite warnings that social distancing rules must be maintained, scenes in areas like Soho in central London suggested little notice was being taken of the law.
As the drink flowed, hundreds of revellers crowded together in the narrow streets, leaving police with the headache of trying to control the crowds.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said yet again the Covid rules had placed frontline officers in a difficult situation.
He said: “We are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation still, and Soho is a prime example. How on earth are we supposed to police that?
“The local councils have made it easy for people to do pretty much what they want. The council is carrying out regular patrols and are calling the police if there are any major problems but in terms of making sure people stick to social distancing it is extremely difficult.”
John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation, said: “It is clear that alcohol and social distancing do not mix.”
The pub and restaurant trade has also criticised the outdoor hospitality rules, insisting there is no evidence to maintain the ban on indoor venues.
The industry will find out this week if the High Court has granted permission to launch a Judicial Review over the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.
A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: “All restrictions have to be removed by June 21st.”
“That is the date when we start our road back to profitability. For us we are holding on but we need the second half of this year to save the Great British Pub. That is it in a nutshell.”
Despite this plea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Government will even stick to the date of the next phase of its “roadmap” out of lockdown – reopening indoor hospitality. Environment Minister George Eustice said on Sunday that it is still “too early to say” whether this unlocking can take place on May 17th because of the threat of new variants, despite the success of the vaccine rollout and the fact that Covid cases have fallen to a seven-month low in England.
The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.