When can we sit inside pubs and restaurants again, and what will it be like?

The Manc The Manc - 29th April 2021

It’s been a long time coming.

But after pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants were permitted to begin serving outdoors from 12th April as part of ‘Step Two’ in the government’s roadmap to lifting England’s current national lockdown – alongside the reopening of non-essential retail, gyms, libraries and outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks – hospitality businesses can finally welcome customers indoors from 17th May, at the earliest.

This means that, pending government review, for the first time in just over five months, we will be able to sit down inside our favourite local hangouts to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat with our friends and family.

The reopening of indoor hospitality comes amid an ongoing legal battle launched by Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord – who is also the co-founder of Parklife Festival and Warehouse Project – and Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond, who notably joined forces last month to take the government to court over restrictions as they argued that bars, restaurants and cafes should have been allowed to provide indoor service on the same date as non-essential retail resumes.

It’s estimated that the delay in reopening indoor hospitality could end up costing the sector £7 billion over the five weeks.


But what will it be like?

What can we expect on our first indoor visit to a pub, restaurant, bar or cafe once ‘Step Three’ commences? What restrictions will be in place? Who can we visit with?


Here’s everything you need to know.

What restrictions will be in place?

While there is currently no legal requirement set out for customers to prove their COVID-19 status, a number of necessary COVID-safe measures will be in place at venues once indoor hospitality reopens on 17th May, at the earliest, which includes table service, spacing out tables to ensure social distancing, putting dividers up such as plastic screens, encouraging card payments, and installing hand sanitiser stations.

Some venues may have also have temperature checks in place upon entry.


All venues must adhere to the restrictions set out by the government to ensure all staff and customers are kept safe.

Who can I visit a pub, restaurant, cafe or bar with?

From 17th May, at the earliest, the ‘rule of six’ and the mixing of two households / social bubbles of any size is set to apply for all indoor social gatherings, which crucially includes at hospitality venues.

For mixing outdoors, the rule changes once again to allow groups of 30 maximum.


What other restrictions are being lifted from 17th May?

If the data allows it, as well as the reopening of indoor hospitality, further restrictions will be lifted on 17th May as part of ‘Step Three’ of lifting England’s lockdown, which are:

  • Up to 30 people from different households will be able to gather outdoors.
  • Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, hotels, museums, children’s play areas can reopen.
  • Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart.
  • Performances and large events can restart, but with limits on audience numbers.
  • Domestic overnight stays will be allowed with people not in your household or bubble.
  • The limit on guests attending weddings, receptions and wakes will increase to 30.

The government has also said it will update advice on social distancing measures no later than this stage, and this will also be the earliest date at which international holidays may be able to resume.


This will all be subject to a prior government review.


For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at