The Government will lift major legal Covid-19 restrictions on July 19, meaning restaurants, bars and cafes in Stroud will no longer be enforcing social distancing, masks or the rule of six.
Boris Johnson said the change is a move toward “personal responsibility,” though critics have pointed out some rules were designed to protect others and infections are rising, with Stroud recording the highest number of cases on June 29 since the peak of the second wave.
This means the choice is in customers hands as to whether they sit at the bar and how many friends they meet with inside, but the owners of some Stroud venues said they will continue to put additional safety measures in place.
One of those was Wesley Birch, owner of Birch Restaurant, who said he will be recommending his staff continue to wear face masks due to the rising cases.
Mr Birch said: “We’re going to do the best in our power to make sure we’re all safe, make sure everywhere is sanitized and cleaned and try and space things out.”
Staff and customer safety is paramount
“We are going to be discreetly following the previous guidelines somewhat,” he said, though he emphasised masks will be voluntary for staff and customers.
“I am responsible for making sure that my team are safe. There’s a huge amount of pressure to try and open up and do what you can do in the middle of a pandemic but staff and customer safety is paramount.”
There were 173 Covid cases per 100,000 people in Stroud in the week ending June 30, up 2780 per cent since the week ending May 30, when 6 cases were reported per 100,000, due to the spread of the Delta variant.
Like Birch Restaurant, the owners of the Felt Café in Brimscombe will be maintaining some additional safety features.
Co-owner Michael Brody said: “We’ll still keep in certain measures like the screens on our counters and our inside tables, but we’d certainly welcome that step [on July 19]- I think it’s in the right direction.
“Particularly our setup here at the café, 80 per cent of our customers are seated outside so for us it would make sense to go that route.”
Despite the relaxation of Covid rules on May 17, Stroud punters were spending far less in pubs and restaurants than pre-pandemic, according to analysis by banking firm Revolut.
Revolut’s analysis of 4000 customers found they were spending 39 per cent less in pubs than in February 2020 and 36 per cent less in restaurants.
Jonathan Armstrong, owner of the Old Neighbourhood Inn, Chalford, said of the proposed rule changes: “I’m a little bit concerned because I’m not sure if it’s too early but on the other hand we need to get back to some normality, especially the hospitality business.”
“We’re from a very small community, most people don’t travel off the hill so we’re quite isolated up here so I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact.
“I think it will encourage people who kept away to come out, there are still people that like to sit at the bar.”
“We can hopefully relax on the table service a little bit which is running us ragged I must admit. We’ve had to employ extra staff.”
Mr Armstrong said he felt it unfair that fans could travel to football stadiums and yet he and his staff were still in a socially awkward position policing the rules.
“They’re all quite tired of implementing all the rules and the regulations and policing them. They’re still getting a bit of abuse from people.”
He added: “We’re a hospitality business and we’re being inhospitable, so from that point of view the quicker we can get rid of these rules and regulations the better, as long it’s safe to do so.”