Covid-19 Recovery Roadmap to Reopening of Private Dining Rooms in London
Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on 22nd February, detailing the roadmap for easing of Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England, there has been a great deal of speculation regarding how and when the UK events & hospitality sector will reopen in the months of April, May & June.
The London restaurant industry reports a huge pent-up demand for private dining rooms in London – event spaces which have been particularly hard hit by lockdown restrictions during the last twelve and a half months and may well be perceived as being the safest spaces for group dining events as lookdown restrictions hopefully continue to be eased.
We take a look at how the roadmap to easing of lockdown restrictions will apply to the reopening of private dining rooms in London.
The government has emphasised that decisions regarding easing of lockdown restrictions are at all times to be subject to four tests.
The Four Tests Which Need To Be Satisfied To Enable Easing of Lockdown Restrictions
1. That the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
2. That evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
3. That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
4. That assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.
The government has further emphasised that ‘before taking each step we will review the data against these tests and because it takes at least four weeks for the data to reflect the impact of relaxations in restrictions and we want to give the country a week’s notice before each change – there will be at least five weeks between each step.’
The caveat applicable to all information contained in this article should therefore be that the dates included are subject to change.
The roadmap for easing of Covid-19 restrictions – with particular regard to restaurants and pubs in England – contains the following key dates, 12th April, 17th May and 21st June. It should be noted that these dates are spaced at five week intervals.
12th April 2021 – The Partial Reopening of Outdoors Hospitality & Events
The date officially known as ‘Step 2’ and covering reopening of non-essential shops and businesses including gyms and hairdressers & the partial reopening of outside hospitality at restaurants & bars – Step 1 not being relevant to reopenings of event & hospitality venues and mainly concerning return to schools and universities, meeting one person outside and restricted visiting to care homes.
The Rule of Six Outdoors
From 12th April people will be allowed to congregate outdoors at restaurant alfresco dining areas and pub beer gardens in (a) groups of no more than 6 guests per table with guests being allowed from different households and (b) larger groups from no more than two households
There will not be a return to the 10 pm curfew introduced in previous lockdown and neither will there be a return to the ‘Scotch egg rule’ which in previous lockdown had required pub beer garden drinkers to have a light meal to accompany their drinks.
With regard to private dining events this will effectively mean that they will be restricted to small alfresco events with no use permitted of private dining rooms inside restaurants.
Government guidelines regarding weddings & civil partnership ceremonies state that outside wedding & civil partnership receptions of up to 15 guests from mixed households in pub beer gardens and alfresco restaurant dining areas that are deemed to be Covid-secure areas will be permitted after 12th April with indoor receptions still prohibited.
17th May – The Partial Reopening of Indoors Hospitality & Events
Officially known as ‘Step 3’ and covering the partial reopening of indoor hospitality.
The Rule of Six Indoors
From this date it is hoped that people will be allowed to meet indoors at restaurants and pubs in (a) groups of up to six people from mixed households and (b) larger groups from no more than two households.
It is also intended that restrictions on groups of people from mixed households meeting outdoors will be removed, subject to a limit of thirty people.
Wedding & civil partnership receptions will be allowed for up to 30 guests in a Covid-secure indoor event space, coinciding with up to 30 guests allowed outdoors.
21st June – The Ending of Restrictions on Private Dining Events
Officially known as ‘Step 4’ and the date which London restaurants are most eagerly anticipating, the date that is intended to be when all restaurants, bars, nightclubs and wedding venues will be allowed to reopen with restrictions on number of people allowed to gather and social distancing rules abolished.
The Ending of Legal Limits On People Allowed To Meet in Restaurants and Pubs
This date is massively important as it would effectively mean that all legal limits on social contact will have been removed.
In the hopeful event that this takes place it would mean the return of the private dining events industry to the capital with London private dining rooms of all capacity sizes being allowed to be booked for group dining events.
Restaurant groups predict that 2022 will be the biggest year for wedding celebration events for many decades.
Hybrid and mixed virtual corporate dining events will be gradually replaced by actual events with guests in a physical room as the effect of vaccination roll-out increases herd immunity to such an extent that guests begin to feel as safe attending group dining events as they did in the pre-pandemic world.
It is thought that whilst corporate private dining events may take a few months to get back to levels that they were at pre-pandemic, social private dining events with family and friends in 2021 will more than makeup for the dip in corporate events this year.
Many restaurants that we have spoken with have expressed the belief that the demand for private dining rooms at London venues will be extremely high in the last six months of the year due to the perception of them being extremely safe environments for groups to congregate in – away from the main restaurant floor.