Published: 06:00, 03 July 2020
No standing, screens in some seating areas and and a ban on propping up the bar - this Saturday pubs will reopen across Thanet but look quite different to what we once knew.
Landlords and brewery bosses say many customers are chomping at the bit to finally be able to return to their much-loved boozers.
But safety is paramount, with new measures in place to help ensure social distancing and to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Philip Thorley, director of Thorley Taverns, which runs 20 pubs across the district, says the priority is reassuring the public that restaurants and pubs are a safe place to be.
“We wish to open safely for our team members and our customers, and we have been working solidly to make sure we do the very best we can,” he said.
Mr Thorley says all their pubs, including The Pavilion and Tartar Frigate in Broadstairs, The Wig and Pen in Margate and the Oak Hotel in Ramsgate, will reopen and they will be as near-to-normal as possible, but with some changes.
“There will be no standing in the pubs, everyone will be seated, so you’d order your drink and food and then sit down,” he said.
“We’ll have ordering at a central spot and then it will be delivered to tables.
“Furniture has been moved around and changed in some cases to follow government guidelines on distancing.
“We are going to be checking staff on arrival.
“They’ll have to fill out a questionnaire, to see how they are feeling, whether anyone in their household has been ill. There will be a live risk assessment running at each site.
“There will obviously be regular hand washing, encouraged of all the teams, back of house and front.
“Some kitchens have been rearranged, so there’s no face-to-face working.
“We’re putting signs up in toilets and the numbers will be limited as to how many can be in there.”
He says while you don’t have to book in most of the pubs, it is is advisable.
He added: “People are really looking forward to it and there’s definitely an appetite there.
“We can’t wait for Saturday to come along and to get those taps turned on.”
At Wetherspoon in Ramsgate plans have also been put in place to maintain safety.
There will be screens at the till point, screens to create seating areas where it is not possible to separate tables to the social distancing requirement, and the provision of gloves, masks and protective eyewear.
Hand sanitiser dispensers will be put around the pub and every employee will need to complete a daily health assessment and have their temperature taken.
Dedicated staff will monitor social distancing and an employee will be on the door at peak times. There will also be two full-time staff who will regularly clean surfaces and touch points.
There will be one entrance with a separate exit door.
Punters will be encouraged to use the order and pay by app or pay at the bar using card and contactless, although cash will be accepted.
Kent’s biggest brewer Shepherd Neame has also announced that the Botany Bay Hotel in Kingsgate, Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie in Birchington, and Royal Albion Hotel in Broadstairs are among the pubs to reopen on Saturday.
Customers will be encouraged to pre-book a table, check menus online, pay by card, and use sanitisation points regularly.
There will be temperature checks on staff, screens between tills and seating, one-in one-out systems in toilets, no standing at the bar, seated table service and reduced capacity.
Chief executive Jonathan Neame says many customers will feel apprehensive about returning to the pub, while others will feel more comfortable.
“We are taking care to try and accommodate all attitudes in our plans for reopening, and would ask for tolerance both to our team members and to each other,” he said.
“In light of the social distancing guidance, reopening our estate while ensuring your visit is safe and enjoyable poses many challenges.
“But please let me assure you that we are doing everything in our power to find creative, practical solutions.
“We need you to stay safe to stay open.”
In the north of the county, bar staff in Maidstone have also been hard at work to get ready for Saturday, with one landlord creating their own app to let customers order from home or the pub.
But not everyone is pleased at the next level of lockdown easing. A university lecturer has described the decision as a 'recipe for disaster'.