BIG CHANGES on how businesses will be operating have been announced by the Wokingham Borough Council, following pubs and restaurants reopening over this weekend.

The announcement comes after the government's decision to further relax lockdown rules, allowing pubs and restaurants to reopen while adhering to social distancing measures.

For residents in the Wokingham borough looking to (at long last) return to having nights out, this means changes in ways businesses will be operating, and changes in how customers can enjoy a pint or a meal out.

The council announced that businesses will be focussing on advance bookings especially on weekends, capacity will be limited, customers will only be able to enter premises when seating is available, meaning queuing outside of a premises is likely for those without a reservation.

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Also drinks will be ordered from tables via a mobile app or by waiters and waitresses instead of from the bar, there may be a time limit on how long tables can be reserved for, additional outdoor seating will be available, spacing will be either two metres or one metre plus but only if additional protection is available (such as perspex screens). Contactless payment will also most likely be necessary.

Venues will also ensure toilets are operated on a one-in, one-out basis, and ask customers to record their contact details, in order to assist with the NHS track and trace.

The council also stated there will be a zero-tolerance policy to anyone who breaches these guidelines.

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Executive member for business and economic development Cllr Stuart Munro, explains “We have been working closely with Thames Valley Police, our town and parish councils, Wokingham Business Association, Love Wokingham, Twyford Together, Woodley Town Centre and the licensees of pubs and restaurants across the borough to plan the safe reopening of our hospitality industry.

"We want to reassure the public that is safe to come together to drink and dine in all our venues, and we hope everyone approaches the reopening with a sense of kindness, understanding, and shared social responsibility.

"Our partners at Thames Valley Police and the Public Protection Partnership will be out and about on Saturday, particularly in Wokingham town centre, to support our local businesses by ensuring they have all of the appropriate measures in place and also to reassure our residents that it’s safe to come back into town.

"Pre-planning your pub or restaurant visit is crucial – not only to check whether your chosen venue will be opening, but also to find out whether you need to reserve a table and understand any systems the venue has in place to keep you safe.

"We expect to see high demand for pubs particularly in our town and village centres this weekend and we strongly advise booking in advance."