Liverpool bars and restaurants divided over new face mask rules

After Boris Johnson announced more lockdown rules yesterday, there are now a number of changes to restrictions in Liverpool and across the country.

Among the new measures in place to stop the rise in coronavirus cases are several new rules for hospitality businesses, such as the 10pm curfew and table service-only which were already in place in Merseyside as part of a local lockdown.

From tomorrow, September 24, it will be mandatory for anyone visiting a hospitality venue to wear a face covering – unless you are sitting at a table eating or drinking.

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This means when visiting the toilet or when walking to and from your table a mask must be worn.

Staff working in these venues must also wear face coverings.

We spoke to Liverpool bars and restaurants to see how the new rules would affect their business, and while many already had this rule in place, others say the new restrictions are “shambolic”.

Others questioned what more they could do to stop the spread of the virus except close down.

‘Our teams have worn masks throughout’

According to Marcus Magee, general manager of Hilton Hotel in Liverpool city centre, staff have worn masks since reopening earlier this year.

He said: “When the Hospitality sector was allowed to restart post lockdown, Hilton Hotels operated a strict ‘clean stay’ policy, which included all of the recommended government guidelines and more.

Inside the new Duke Street Market
Inside Duke Street Market
(Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

“Our teams have worn masks throughout and our priority will always be to keep our team and our guests safe whilst ensuring that our customers have the confidence to stay with us knowing that every precaution has been taken. Our feedback from customers has been very positive indeed”.

‘The show must go on’

Lee Lynch, owner of Red Door on Berry Street said that the new table-service only and cleanliness have been “at the heart of everything we do” since reopening.

He said that Red Door aims to comply with the new restrictions while also ensuring that guests have a “great time in difficult circumstances”.

Lee added: “We want our guests to have fun in a safe environment whilst at all times ensuring the safety of our customers and team.

New lockdown rules

“These are difficult times and we are mindful that socialising is an important part of everyday life. Our aim is to comply whilst still making sure that our guests have a great time in difficult circumstances.

“Our team is showing great spirit and our mentality is that where possible ‘the show must go on’ whilst having the health and well-being of our guests at the forefront of every decision we make”.

‘We all need a bit of escapism’

James Bates, co-founder of Maray Dockside at Royal Albert Dock said: “We’re happy to do whatever we need to do to keep our guests safe.

“We were accredited as COVID-safe by FourSquareGroup prior to re-opening and we have served nearly 20,000 people since we re-opened in July with no known cases of anyone entering our restaurants passing the virus on to anyone else.

“The whole restaurant industry are experts in health and safety and we’re ready to take whatever steps we need to take to remain open. During these very difficult times we all need a bit of escapism, and visiting a COVID-safe restaurant can provide that.”

‘I am at a loss of where to go from here’

The Sandon Pub beer garden packed with Liverpool fans
The Sandon Pub beer garden packed with Liverpool fans
(Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

However, Kate Stewart, owner of The Sandon Complex which only reopened last week after six months of closure, said that while staff have been wearing masks and “strictly following every guideline”, she is concerned that coronavirus is still spreading.

Kate said: “My staff have been wearing face shields since we reopened and I have ensured that we are strictly following every guideline in order to protect my staff and the public and will continue to uphold those stringent measures.

“We have gone above and beyond to safeguard both staff and customers and ensured social distancing is adhered to at all times.

“But the virus is still spreading despite all of this so I am at a loss of where to go from here other than to completely close until the R rate goes back down.”

‘It will 100% deter people from coming out’

Matt Farrell, co-owner of Graffiti Spirits Group, which is behind some of the city’s much-loved venues including Duke Street Market and Maluco, said the Government’s response to coronavirus is “shambolic” and that the new face mask rule will “100% deter people from coming out”.

He added: “Hospitality is about relaxing and being free, and this can be done in a safe environment.

“If we are going by data – which everyone seems to be – then we can see that hospitality is responsible for less than 5% of transmissions of the infection.

“The government needs to trust the professionals but everyone has their own opinions on face coverings, but it will 100% deter people from coming out and will burn a new hole in the economy.”

‘Unclear guidance has confused everybody’

Liam Jones, founder of health and safety specialist Foursquare Group, which works with independent businesses across Liverpool, said the new measures laid out by the Government “should have been made mandatory from the beginning”.

He said this could have prevented the new 10pm curfew, which will “adversely” affect trade for the hospitality industry and “ultimately make survival even more difficult”.

Liam added: “We’ve needed ‘strong and stable’ guidance from this Government which allows customers to eat, drink and shop safely and confidently – unfortunately this hasn’t arrived.

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“The back and forth, unclear guidance we have received, has confused everybody, not addressed the safety concerns effectively and diminished customer confidence.

“Some of the measures announced this week, should have been made mandatory from the beginning. Consistent use of face coverings, a reliable track and trace system and sensibly allowing multiple households to mix together from the start may have avoided this new 10pm curfew which is going to negatively affect so many businesses”.

Here’s all the new things you can and can’t do under the new lockdown restrictions.

Let us know what you think about the new lockdown rules in our survey here.

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