New face mask rule in pubs will be 'impossible' to police

Pub owners have warned enforcing the new face coverings rule in pubs is going to be incredibly difficult.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced yesterday wearing face masks will be compulsory at all times in pubs and restaurants except when sitting down to eat or drink, starting from tomorrow.

Boris Johnson said the UK was at a ‘perilous turning point’ in the battle with coronavirus as he abandoned efforts to get more workers back into offices and imposed a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.

He added the restrictions could last for six months – taking them well beyond Christmas – ‘unless we palpably make progress’.

But the new measures were met with an instant backlash from the pub trade, with fears trade could be affected and even cause some firms to shut.

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Greg Mulholland, campaign director for the Campaign for Pubs, said: ‘It seems questionable asking people to wear face masks yet not at the table, and there is a fear that the need to have a mask will put people off going to pubs which could see levels of trade drop even further.’

‘The confirmation of a curfew of 10pm and other restrictions for up to six months is devastating for many pubs and publicans. 

‘As it is, most pubs were only getting back on their feet and many were not yet trading profitably and this latest news will make it impossible for some publicans to carry on.’

Jake Laing, who manages a pub in Notting Hill, told MailOnline: ‘The movement of people around the pub with a face mask will be difficult to police.

‘It puts more pressure on the business. It feels like we’re taking steps back but we will overcome it. 

‘When people have had a few drinks it will become a problem to police.’

Stressing that he will enforce the rules, the 30-year-old added: ‘It’s the same as track and trace. If they don’t want to do it this isn’t the place for them. Obviously it will be a challenge but we have to do it if we’re going to be open.’

But Michela Rosi, assistant manager at the Churchill Arms in Notting Hill, said people will have to get to grips with the system quickly as she will be clamping down.

‘It’s just something that people need to get used to, they’ll just have to take the mask off when they get the drinks, and put them back on if they go go the toilet or something,’ she said.

The Churchill Arms often sees people standing outside on the street drinking, but the new rules restricting business to table service will ban this. Ms Rosi said this will ‘100%’ be a blow for the pub.

But supervisor Roxi Aulsberry added: ‘The main part of this job I love is the banter, but they just have to have it at the tables. There’s pros and cons with everything, we just have to take the good out of it.’

Punters are also concerned the new face coverings rule will be difficult to enforce.

Max Thestlethwaite, from Shepherd’s Bush, was enjoying a drink with his girlfriend Christina Diaz, 43, outside the Builder’s Arms in Kensington in the wake of the PM’s announcement.

He said: ‘We are avid pub-goers, but my view around the new rules is what difference is it going to make if people are out by 10pm or 11pm?

‘Imagine Friday night in Soho at 9.30pm. How’s that going to be different to 10.30pm? And trying to clear the pub at 9.30pm when everyone’s drinking…’

Mr Thestlethwaite, 32, added compulsory face mask-wearing will be impossible to enforce for pub staff.

‘I just don’t think it’s really enforceable… They’ll have to spend half the time enforcing the rules,’ he said.

The PM said in the Commons yesterday lunchtime: ‘From Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate a table service only, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.

‘To help the police enforce this rule I’m afraid that means, alas, closing and not just calling for last orders because simplicity is paramount.

‘The same will apply to takeaways, though deliveries can continue thereafter. I’m sorry this will affect many businesses getting back on their feet but we must act to stop the virus from being transmitted in bars and restaurants.’

Pubs, bars and restaurants could be forced to shut completely if they are caught breaking the law, and the fine for flouting the ‘rule of six’ has now doubled to £200.

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