Britons across the country could be told to wear masks when they return to beer gardens next week despite being outside.
From Monday, pubs will be permitted to welcome customers back as the latest lockdown restrictions begin to ease but they must only be served outside.
Government guidance states that masks must only be worn indoors and has not stipulated that pub goers must wear face masks when they are outside.
Yet according to the Daily Telegraph, pub landlords are being given contradictory instructions by councils who are insisting masks must be worn by customers unless they are eating or drinking.
The newspaper reports that councils have set up enforcement teams to patrol pubs for rule-breakers and that some publicans fear they may be fined.
A notice from Ribble Borough Council, in Lancashire, said: ‘Face coverings must be worn by customers, except when seated to eat or drink.’
Britons across the country could be told to wear masks when they return to beer gardens next week despite being outside and government rules stating masks must only be worn indoors
The government has said that customers do not have to wear masks when in beer gardens. Pictured: A member of staff in personal protective equipment after pubs reopened last July
When questioned as to whether a mistake had been made by one landlady, the council reportedly insisted masks must be worn in beer gardens unless eating or drinking.
Both industry bodies UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association said they were aware of ‘inconsistencies’ in some guidance being given to pub owners.
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nichols told the Telegraph: ‘We need local enforcement bodies to be working to support businesses to reopen rather than to be putting barriers in the way or creating confusion.’
Meanwhile, Emma McClarkin, CEO of the BBPA, added: ‘We’re aware of inconsistencies among councils and local authorities and we would ask to come to this in the spirit of trying to assist pubs opening safely rather than trying to look for errors or reasons to stymie their reopening.’
It comes as millions of Britons are expected to spend more than £300million next week when pub beer gardens and restaurant terraces open from Monday.
The figures will provide cheer for a sector that has been ravaged by a year of lockdowns forced thousands of venues to close.
Friends from Bromley enjoy pints Camden Town Brewerys pop-up beer garden last summer
But the outpouring of spending is still less than the average £663million per week on eating and drinking out, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).
Three-fifths of the nation’s 40,000 boozers will stay shut on Monday because they do not have enough outdoor space to open, and most of those that do open will be loss-making, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said.
The rest of the sector must wait until May 17, the earliest day indoor hospitality will be allowed to open.
A quarter of adults said plan to visit a pub within the first week of restrictions being lifted and a tenth said they will head down on Monday, according to a money.co.uk survey.
The hospitality industry has spent in excess of £1billion on social distancing measures, such as Perspex screens, and outdoor kit including tents and heaters.
The key Easter bank holiday has already passed, starving pubs of £325million of beer sales over the four-day weekend alone.
Customers eat Sunday lunches at tables outside restaurants in Soho, in London in September
Landlords are now praying for a warm, dry spring to encourage drinkers outside. The weather on Monday is forecast to be sunny with highs of 8C in the south and 11C in the north.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the BBPA, said: ‘That first pint back in the beer garden is going to be a special moment. People across the country have been looking forward to it for months.
‘With so many pubs still not opening though, it’s crucial the Government sticks to its roadmap.’ The CEBR said: ‘There is a palpable sense of excitement surrounding hospitality reopening.
‘With more than half of the population at least partially vaccinated, optimism at record highs and a good amount of pent-up demand, there are many reasons to believe that demand for restaurants and pubs will rebound even stronger than after the previous two reopenings.’
This week the UK’s large pub groups announced their reopening plans, revealing the large number that will remain shut.
Marston’s, which owns Pitcher and Piano brand, will reopen 700 of its 1,000 managed pubs, while Mitchell & Butlers will open 300 pubs, out of 1,600 – less than a fifth of its estate.
A pub prepares to open its garden after months of COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown in London
Greene King will reopen 992 pubs and Wetherspoon will open 394 of its pubs – in each case less than half of the total.
The prolonged closure for many pubs came as the rate of pub closure accelerated, with 42 shutting their doors every day in 2021, up from 30-a-day last year.
Close to 12,000 licenced premises have already shut their doors permanently between December 2019 and February 2021.
When pubs and restaurants reopened in the summer, around two-thirds of people returned to eating out within a month, with young people most likely to risk the trip.
It took until September for the number of consumers dining out to reach 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels after the July restart, Kantar said.
The figures suggested it could take many months for hospitality to recover, but many experts have predicted a strong summer as families lavish lockdown savings on eating out.
Older customers who have had the vaccine are also expected to be much more confident this time round.
Lucy Chapman, a director at Kantar, said: ‘We are on track for a roaring summer. Older people will be enjoying greater freedom thanks to vaccinations and we’ll all be making the most of warmer temperatures.’