Pubs chains including Wetherspoons have said they will do away with mask requirements for customers from next week – but will still require staff to wear face coverings in some cases.
Pub giants including Greene King, Mitchell and Butler, and Wetherspoons, who run nearly 6,000 sites between them, have promised that from Monday punters will once again be able to walk up to the bar and order a pint – without needing to wear a mask.
“The wearing of face masks is no longer a legal requirement, so this will be a matter of personal choice both for our team members and guests,” a spokesperson for Mitchell and Butler, which owns All Bar One and Toby Carvery, said.
“Vertical drinking will be allowed, though we’ll continue to encourage guests to use our convenient order and pay at table apps.”
The company also confirmed that it would not force customers to use the NHS Test and Trace system, either.
Greene King and Wetherspoons echoed this, confirming that they would no longer require customers to check in with their Test and Trace app, and would scrap mask requirements and social distancing for punters.
Wearing masks in most public places will no longer be a legal requirement from Monday when England scraps the majority of its safety measures, but guidance published by the government says it “expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces”.
Critics say the guidance fails to provide enough clarity for employers, who are being asked to make their own risk assessments about what to do, with just days to spare until the rules change.
Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn and a number of bar and restaurant brands, confirmed that it would also be ditching face covering requirements for its pubs, saying that it would be left to personal choice.
But with just days to go before the rules change, some landlords were more guarded about their plans.
A spokesperson for Stonegate, the largest pub operator in the UK with more than 4,500 sites, declined to comment, instead directing questions to UK Hospitality, the industry body that represents pubs and restaurants.
When asked, a spokesperson from UK Hospitality said it was the responsibility of Stonegate to dictate its own policy.
“Ultimately, it will be operators’ choice whether and what works for their business at this time,” the group said in a statement.
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