Features / coronavirus

How can cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants safely reopen?

By martin booth, Sunday May 31, 2020

“It’s become clear that allowing bars to open as drinks takeaways is turning central Bristol into a huge urinal,” tweeted Bristol City Council cabinet member Paul Smith on Sunday afternoon.

But the pubs and bars are certainly not the only ones to blame. Even if they do not operate as off licences, people who want to drink will be able to get their alcohol elsewhere.

Mostly surrounded by offices, the Tesco Express on Cathedral Walk in the Harbourside for example usually caters predominantly for grab-and-go lunches. At the moment, however, the amount of alcohol for sale is at the level usually seen during the Harbour Festival or Bristol Pride weekends.

And no amount of new rules introduced by the government are seemingly able to prevent large groups of people congregating in areas of the city including nearby Brunel Quay, drinking, inhaling nitrous oxide from party balloons and even jumping into the docks for a swim.

Many of these people also leave their rubbish behind after them. This sense of entitlement – that somebody else will clean up your litter – is unfortunately not a new occurrence as we emerge from lockdown but a sadly predictable side of Bristol in the summer.

Rubbish including cans of cider and canisters of nitrous oxide was still strewn around Brunel Quay on Sunday morning – photo by Mark Andres

Cafes including Boston Tea Party on Gloucester Road and Baristas on Victoria Street, and Hart’s Bakery at Temple Meads, have reopened in the last few weeks, with new safety measures in place to cope with the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

At Boston Tea Party, customers now have to pre-order in advance and collect their drinks using the new ‘contactless coffee’ initiative, while at Baristas only one customer is allowed into the shop at any one time and reusable cups are no longer allowed.

Hart’s now has two serving areas: one in the archway next door to the bakery for customers who have pre-ordered via their new online shop; and the other in the bakery itself for walk-in customers, with only two people allowed inside at any one time and staff behind the new bar wearing PPE.

Baristas has also changed the position of its counter (see main photo) to better enable social distancing as customers come in for their takeaways, something which Full Court Press on Broad Street is currently doing in preparation for reopening “when the time is right”.

“We’re not returning to normal,” wrote Full Court Press co-owner Mat North in his latest blog.

“Many are still at risk or are anxious about the continuing pandemic, so now more than ever we need to re-asses what we mean by hospitality.

“It needs to move away from simply taking care of their needs as they relate to the service we provide and instead have the welfare, physical and mental, of our guests as the number one concern.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that no harm will come to them on our watch.”

Mat said that things are “not as simple as putting 2m marks on the floor and using a temporary screen. How and why these and other safety measures work is important; they need to be more than just performative”.

He added: “In the confined spaces of our cafes, the small temporary screens are simply not enough. They are like bringing a knife to a gun fight, sure they offer some protection, but they are outmatched and outgunned.”

Inside Full Court Press on Broad Street prior to the pandemic – photo by Martin Booth

Former Full Court Press barista-turned-carpenter Will Ireland, who also used to co-own Didn’t You Do Well cafe on Park Row, is building the new bar at the far end of the shop.

There will be a newly created open area, with the working space for staff – who will all be wearing PPE in the short term – also larger.

“The design works with screens, masks/faceguards, hand washing to create as safe an environment as is possible in the space, an integrated approach,” said Mat, who will continue to accept cash in Full Court Press via tip trays.

All money handed over will be sanitised before being placed in the till, with any change needed taken from the till and placed for the customer on a fresh tray.

“It’s not a danger,” he said. “To refuse to accept (cash) is exclusionary, the message is that its easier to exclude members of society than it is to adjust your systems ever-so slightly, ineffectual you are refusing to offer guest rights… (It is) simple, easy and most importantly ensuring as much as we can that no harm comes to our guests and staff.”

Main photo by Martin Booth

Read more: ‘Many businesses will need to reopen soon to survive’

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