‘It feels premature’ Restaurant staff to keep wearing masks
BRISTOL restaurant owners have reacted with caution to the Government’s decision to ease final lockdown measures later this month.
The so-called “Freedom Day” on July 19 is expected to means the end of the ‘rule of six’ so restaurants can accept larger bookings.
It also means people would no longer be legally required to wear face coverings and the ‘one metre plus’ social distancing rule will be lifted.
Although the Government’s guidance is that people might want to wear face masks in ‘enclosed and crowded places,’ Bristol restaurateurs have mixed feelings about whether waiting staff should wear them or not.
Olly Gallery, co-owner of Prego in Westbury Park, says the July 19 lifting of restrictions won’t have a huge impact on his business. The Italian restaurant on North View has added a heated outdoor terrace in recent months to make up for reduced covers inside.
“We are probably going to keep the spacing the same, so our guests don’t feel like they’re cramped in. The terrace will now be a permanent feature, hopefully into the winter months, if people are willing to wrap up.”
But Olly adds that he welcomes the fact that face masks will be optional, for both customers and staff.
“We are all looking forward to the masks being phased out. There is a noticeable loss of interaction between the front of house and the customer which is all part of the theatre of dining out.”
Dominic Borel is co-owner of Pasta Loco in Cotham Hill, Pasta Ripiena in St Stephen’s Street and Bianchis in Montpelier.
He’s a little more cautious about how things might look after July 19, not least because of concerns that an increasing number of restaurant staff in Bristol are having to isolate due to possible contact with people with Covid.
“The July 19 lifting of restrictions gives us all a little more freedom but, to be honest, it still feels a bit premature because we’re still losing staff to isolation and it doesn’t really feel safe at the moment.
“We’re not really changing the structure of our restaurants, mainly because we’ve gained
... To be honest, it still feels a bit premature because we’re still losing staff to isolation and it doesn’t really feel safe at the moment.
Dominic Borel of Pasta Loco
We’ll be keeping a little extra space between tables, using single use menus and staff will continue to wear masks Tess Lidstone of Box-E
the outdoor terraces at Pasta Loco and Ripiena.
“We are going to ask our staff to wear masks until we feel it’s a little safer. The country may be released to some sort of normality on July 19 but Bristol is still looking pretty hairy when it comes Covid rates in young people and we have to protect our staff as much as possible.
“We’re so thin on the ground in terms of staff that if a couple of people go down with it, or have to isolate, it will mean having to close restaurants for a bit and we can’t afford to do that after what we’ve been through over the past 16 months.”
Tess Lidstone of Box-E in Wapping Wharf said she’s happy with the Covid measures they have in place and plans on keeping them for the time being, regardless of what happens on July 19.
“Our aim is to make guests feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible so that they can enjoy their meal and time with us.
“We’ll be keeping a little extra space between tables, using single use menus and staff will continue to wear masks.”
But like other local restaurant owners, Tess is worried about the system of staff having to isolate.
She said: “I would urge for there to be a more sensible use of the NHS app, specifically if staff receive a notification to isolate from a suspected contact outside of work and test negative. I think there needs to be a review on whether they still need to isolate.”
These are sentiments echoed by Mark Thwaites, operations director at The Lido in Clifton, and Fish and Three Brothers Burgers, both on Welsh Back.
“The news of all restrictions being lifted on July 19 has come at a difficult time to digest as we are currently battling with low staff levels due to so many having to self isolate after being contacted by track and trace.
“Unlike a lot of other venues nationwide, we are lucky to have retained a majority of our staff throughout the past year but with a good number in each department currently self isolating we are having to limit our offering at our sites.
“I think there will be a real mixed bag of opinion about mask wearing and by making it a personal choice, it could well affect how comfortable some people are to venture out to restaurants whilst we are seeing a rise in cases nationwide.
“Personally, we have all got used to wearing masks now and for a majority of people it is not a big inconvenience.
“Whilst the numbers of infections is still rising, perhaps mask wearing in certain indoor situations, like public transport, should remain.”