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Staying safe in pubs and restaurants after lockdown

Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
14 July 2020

This article was written in line with the best available evidence and guidelines at the time of publishing.

As the lockdown restrictions have eased significantly, people in England can now go to the pub and out to restaurants. Here I explain how to keep yourself and others safe as pubs open their doors after lockdown.


Follow the rules

Going to the pub will look and feel a little different than it once did. Pubs and restaurants have put measures in place to help reduce the risk of people picking up or spreading coronavirus. Some pubs have unfortunately had to close again after reopening, because of coronavirus cases.

If you’re planning a trip to the pub or a bite to eat, make sure you know the rules before you go. These include things like:

  • booking ahead and knowing how many people you can have in your party. Indoors you can have two households or support bubbles. Outside you can have two households or support bubbles, or a group of up to six people from any number of households
  • looking out for signage about where to wait or queue – it’s likely you’ll be asked to queue outside where possible
  • washing your hands or using hand sanitiser when you arrive
  • staying at your table as much as possible to reduce contact with other surfaces
  • making sure you supervise your children at all times and ensure they social distance

You’ll be asked to leave your name and number so that pubs, hotels and restaurants can contact you if they need to as part of contact tracing measures.

Keep a safe distance

The guidelines are that you should stay two metres apart from other people. If this isn’t possible, one metre plus is allowed. This means staying one metre apart and taking other precautions to reduce the risk of transmission. There may be one-way routes to follow, or access to the toilets on a one-in, one-out basis. Making these measures work means that we all need to do our part. It will help to expect to have to behave a little differently than you would have done before COVID-19.

If you’re outside, it’s handy to note that if it rains, you won’t be able to shelter inside unless safe distances can be maintained. So perhaps bring a brolly!

Mental health and alcohol

One of the biggest activities people have missed is being able to meet up with friends and have a few drinks. And now that you can, it’s tempting to push the limits. But take care – alcohol can have negative effects on your mental wellbeing, which for many people has already been affected over the last few months.

A drink can make you feel more relaxed – because of changes to the chemicals in your brain. But these effects may mean you lose your inhibitions as you drink more. It’s possible you may then be less likely to follow the guidelines. Some people may become more aggressive and angry or anxious and depressed when they drink.

And if you’re already feeling anxious, drinking alcohol may make it worse in certain situations. Drinking can cause you to miss or misinterpret some of the cues in your environment, which you may perceive as threatening. You may then focus on that, increasing your anxiety levels.

Stay in control

If you’re going to the pub, here are some ways you can drink sensibly, stay in control – and stay safe.

  • Test your knowledge and take our alcohol quiz.
  • Know the limits. UK guidelines advise not drinking more than 14 units per week, and to have some alcohol-free days. It’s also important not to drink heavily or binge drink in one sitting.
  • Use our handy picture guide to track the number of units in different alcoholic drinks.

Bupa's units of alcohol in a drink


Drinking sensibly and safely

When you’re at the pub, use these tips to help you drink sensibly.

  • Eat before you drink so alcohol is absorbed more slowly by your body.
  • Have a spritzer or shandy. This means you’ll still get a large drink, but it will contain less alcohol.
  • Go for a single rather than a double. For example, a single measure of spirits (25ml), a small glass of wine (125ml or 175ml) or bottle (rather than pint) of beer.
  • Steer clear of rounds and don’t feel pressured into drinking quicker than you want to.
  • Have a break in between each alcoholic drink and have a soft drink instead. Or an alcohol-free or low-alcohol alternative.
  • Have a mocktail instead.
  • Keep tabs on how much you’re drinking and be aware that topping-up your drink can make your units mount up quickly.

Respect others

Everyone is dealing with coming out of lockdown in their own way. It’s been a time when worry and anxiety levels have been high. It will take us all some time to readjust to a new type of normal. When you’re out at the pub or in a restaurant, be mindful that some people may be more anxious and cautious than you may be. Don’t take offence if it looks as though someone is trying to avoid you, instead be kind and considerate. It’s nothing personal. These measures will help stop the virus spreading.

Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

    • Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways. GOV UK. www.gov.uk, updated 3 July 2020
    • Coronavirus. Three pubs close after positive tests. BBC News. www.bbc.co.uk , published 7 July 2020
    • Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace. GOV UK. www.gov.uk, published 2 July
    • Coronavirus and mental health. DrinkAware. www.drinkaware.co.uk, last reviewed 18 March 2018
    • What is an alcohol unit? DrinkAware. www.drinkaware.co.uk, last reviewed 23 April 2020
    • Prime Minister's statement to the House on COVID-19: 23 June 2020. GOV UK. www.gov.uk
    • Meeting people from outside your household. GOV UK. www.gov.uk, last updated 9 July 2020

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