Reopening Guidelines for the UK hospitality sector (updated weekly)

After a difficult year of lockdowns and social distancing, the hospitality sector is finally preparing to bounce back. But as we emerge from lockdown, there’s still a lot of confusion regarding when and how we’re going to be able to re-open our doors again. 

Here is a roundup of official guidelines and updates for the hospitality sector in each region across the UK. We will keep this blog updated weekly.

(Last updated: 19/04/2021) 

Hospitality reopening plans in England


Here’s an overview of the UK Government’s main steps towards reopening hospitality businesses this spring:

Outdoor hospitality areas are now open for groups of up to 6 people or 2 households. But, when mixing with anyone outside of your household/support bubble, social distancing measures should still be in place (stand at least 2m apart). 

All outdoor hospitality must carry out table service and allow customers to use inside toilets. Plus, alcohol can be served (as part of table service) and/or taken away. Venues must not provide shared smoking equipment, such as shisha pipes.

From no earlier than 17th May 

Excitingly, indoor areas of hospitality venues can reopen on the 17th of May, but table service will still be required. Venues can only be visited by groups of 6 people or 2 households indoors, or in a group of no more than 30 people outdoors (including for staycations). Shared smoking equipment will still be prohibited 

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions will also be able to reopen, as well as sauna and steam rooms included as part of holiday accommodation.  

From no earlier than 21st June

The remaining businesses can reopen from this date, including nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.

Restrictions and limits on all social contact will be lifted — subject to a review of social distancing measures. And, COVID-Secure requirements on businesses will be relaxed too. 

As for larger-scale events, there’s been talk of using Lateral Flow Tests as a way of safely restarting these.

It’s important to remember that each of these dates is subject to review and will depend on the data nearer the time. There are no guarantees that this roadmap won’t change. 

Useful resources for England:

Hospitality reopening plans in Scotland


The above guidelines are designed to apply to all regions, but there are some specific points to be aware of in Scotland:

UPDATE: Nicola Sturgeon set a provisional roadmap for lockdown easing. Here are the main dates with a focus on hospitality:

  • 5th April: Some retail, including hairdressers, and all click and collect services can 
  • 12th-19th April: All children will be back at school. Scottish Islands may -> level 2, including the reopening of hospitality.
  • 26th April: Hospitality may open indoors for meals and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm, and outdoors with alcohol until 10pm. Hotels and accommodation may also reopen. Travel around Scotland and from anywhere in the UK should be permitted.
  • 17th May: All level 3 areas -> level 2. This includes hospitality opening until 22:30 indoors with alcohol permitted. International travel may be able to resume.
    June: All areas can hope to move to level 1 and then 0, ridding of the final Covid19 restrictions.

    All dates are provisional and will depend on data nearer the time.

Useful resources for Scotland:

Hospitality reopening plans in Wales


UPDATE: The Welsh Government has announced that all restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses will be able to reopen for outdoor trading from the 26th April

Wales is currently at an intermediate level, gradually moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3.

The sale or supply of food or drink for consumption within licensed premises, must be carried out with the reasonable measures specified in the Coronavirus Regulations. This also applies during any period of further restrictions where alcohol cannot be consumed within hospitality premises. This means that customers must be seated in the premises anywhere other than at a bar:

  • When ordering food or drink
  • When being served with food or drink, and
  • When consuming food or drink.
Licensed premises are also encouraged to use smartphone apps for customers to order and pay for food to minimise contact between staff and customers. If paying at the counter, social distancing should be maintained.

Useful resources for Wales:

Hospitality reopening plans in Northern Ireland 

Northern Ireland

Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs must remain closed, with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway, drive-through or delivery. Businesses providing takeaway services must close at 11.00 pm and off-sales must stop at 8.00 pm. Outdoor areas are not permitted to be used.

From no earlier than 30th April:

Outdoor areas at hospitality venues (cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, social clubs, including in members’ clubs) can reopen.

A maximum of six people from two households can be seated together. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total and more than six will also be permitted if they all belong to a single household.

Apart from entering and leaving the premises, the only movement allowed indoors is to access toilet facilities, to select food from a buffet or to pay - however, social distancing must be maintained.

Venues will also be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Indicative date
An indicative date of 24 May has been set for the reopening of indoor hospitality venues and all tourism accommodation. This will be subject to review.

Useful resources for Northern Ireland:

General resources

VAT for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions.

The Government has announced the reduction in VAT to 5% for the UK’s tourism and hospitality sector has been extended until 30th September 2021. This will be increased to a temporary interim rate of 12.5% from 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022, before returning to the standard rate of 20% from 1 April 2022.

Who will it affect?

It will affect the following suppliers:

  • hot takeaway food and hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages
  • food and non-alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption, for example, in restaurants, cafes and pubs,
  • sleeping accommodation in hotels or similar establishments, holiday accommodation, pitch fees for caravans and tents
  • admissions to the following attractions that are not already eligible for the cultural VAT exemption such as, theatres, circuses, amusement parks, museums, and cinemas


For further guidance and more information provided by the government, please follow the link below.

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