Skip to content

Keeping the distance

Most pubs and bars in the UK are simply not designed to easily allow for social distancing. It is no surprise that this reopening requirement has been subject to the widest range of debate, given any reduction in capacity will have significant affects on the profitability of sites.

Understand the space you're working with

Move or remove tables and chairs to increase distancing

Introduce one-way systems and/or close off tight spots

Make changes to work spaces and work processes

Communicate your social distancing measures


While venues with outdoor seating and those with high capacity will be able to make easier changes, for most of the trade it's time to get out the tape measure and understand the space you're working with. On the 23rd of June, the government announced, a relaxed approach to the 2m distancing rule, which allows staff and guests to be only 1m apart provided extra safety steps are taken; these include wearing face coverings, installing screens, providing extra handwashing facilities and facing people away from each other. This reduced requirement is only in cases where 2m is not viable, and efforts should still be made to keep people the full distance apart. Remember that distancing rules go for yourself and your staff too and consider what this would mean for back-of-house areas. 

Video: How The Somers Town Coffee House is preparing

Moving around the venue

Examine your venue for the pinch points, the spots where social distancing is just not possible. The advice is to use markings to guide staff and customers through these areas, utilising a one-way flow where possible. Once you've measured up, you'll need to make any changes needed to the layout of your venue, typically this will be spacing and moving tables and removing bar seating.

Look to reduce the risk of congestion particularly around the entrance by opening a second door if you have one, and using one as an entrance and one as an exit. If you can't use a one-way flow at a pinch point, ask if the area can be closed off entirely or look at assigning a single staff member to operate in this area. If there is the chance of being over capacity, place 2m markers outside your venue to remind people to queue safely. 


Keeping staff distanced

With staff in the on-trade working closely side-by-side to, enabling social distancing for workers is going to be one of the trickiest areas to manage. The easiest way to make social distancing easier for staff is to reduce the amount of staff on site at any one time. Beyond that, look at designating areas and workstations to make sure staff do no need to come into close contact. Use tape to mark out spaces and introduce one-way flow routes where possible. Other ideas for making social distancing easier for workers include;

  • Giving staff walkie talkies or a messaging group to communicate across the venue.
  • Designating one person to have access to the cellar or walk-in fridges and freezers.
  • Creating handover points where waiting staff can leave their tray for bar staff to place drinks on before returning to the bar.
  • Installing screens to create a physical barrier with guests, particularly at till points.


Communicating the steps you've taken

Use signs throughout your venue to make it clear to staff and customers the responsibilities they have. place notices on areas that are closed off and clearly highlight any one way areas. Consider placing a sign at your entrance highlighting that social distancing measures are in place and asking guests to watch for signage and further guidance once inside.