United Kingdom

Police chiefs say they are struggling to enforce Covid rules outside pubs and bars

Police chiefs have said they are struggling to enforce social distancing rules outside as revellers gathered to enjoy the first weekend since lockdown restrictions were eased.

Thousands of people flooded back to bars and pubs to enjoy the first weekend since lockdown restrictions were eased, with rules stating they must eat and drink outdoors.

Outdoor seating in pubs and restaurants across the country - including London, Leeds and Newcastle - were swamped on Saturday night as partygoers made the most of their new-found freedoms. 

It was estimated that the 50,000 pubs and restaurants selling alcohol would serve six million pints to mark 'Super Saturday'.

The hospitality sector had hoped to recoup some of its losses from the past year and has urged Boris Johnson to scrap the outdoor rule altogether. 

But police bosses have said the enforcement of social distancing outside is not possible and added that the easing of restrictions created 'challenges for policing'.

Police chiefs have said they are facing a challenging task when it comes to enforcing social distancing outside as revellers hit the streets this weekend. Pictured: Drinkers in Soho, London

Beer gardens in England were re-opened at the start of the week as Britain continued on Boris Johnson 's roadmap out of lockdown. Pictured: Man gestures at police in Soho, London

Met Police Fed chairman Ken Marsh pointed to pictures in Soho as a 'prime example' of the scale of the challenge officers face . Pictured: people party along a street in Soho, London

A police officer stands on the street next to people sitting at the terrace of a bar in London

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, pointed to pictures from London's Soho at the weekend as the 'prime example' of a near impossible task facing officers.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he said: 'We are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation still, and Soho is a prime example. How on earth are we supposed to police that?

'The local councils have made it easy for people to do pretty much what they want.

'The council is carrying out regular patrols and are calling the police if there are any major problems but in terms of making sure people stick to social distancing it is extremely difficult.'

Beer gardens in England were re-opened at the start of the week as Britain continued on Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.

Under current rules in the country, people must remain seated outdoors to eat and drink and are limited to groups of no more than six people or two households. 

People dine and party along a street in Soho as lockdown restrictions eased in England

Pictured: Crowds appeared to huddle together as they danced in Trafalgar Square, London

Punters looked in good spirits as they sat in Soho, London, to make most of new freedoms

Beer gardens in England were re-opened at the start of the week as Britain continued on Boris Johnson 's roadmap out of lockdown. Pictured: Partygoers in Soho, London

Pubs across the country were expecting to sell more than six million pints on Saturday plus an additional 10,000 takeaway pints served by establishments without outdoor seating.

John Apter, the Police Federation of England and Wales's national chair, previously acknowledged that everybody was 'fed up and frustrated' with lockdown restrictions but warned that this would create extra pressure for police forces.

Speaking at the weekend, he added: 'It is clear that alcohol and social distancing do not mix.'

Meanwhile, hospitality bosses have urged the Government to scrap the outdoor rule as, this week, the sector will find out if the High Court will allow a Judicial Review over the Government's roadmap.

Former Pizza Express director Hugh Osmond and Manchester's night-time economy manager Sacha Lord claim there is no evidence for why non-essential shops have been permitted to open while indoor hospitality must remain shut until May 17.

They are seeking a judge's ruling and requested the case be hurried through the courts because time is of the essence.

The Prime Minister has resisted calls to accelerate his roadmap to lift restrictions, stressing the need for caution so not to trigger a third wave of Covid-19.

Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, told the Telegraph: 'We are calling for fairness. Hospitality in the UK has spent half a billion pounds putting all these measures in place.

'We cannot understand when we are operating at 50 per cent, with social distancing, table service, track and trace and all these, yet you can walk freely around the high street in and out of shops indoors, It doesn't seem fair to us.'

Yesterday, Mr Osmond pointed to pictures of huge crowds outside Harrods in London and said: 'It is surely clear that all-seated, licensed hospitality venues, with table service only, cannot present more of a risk than non-essential retail.

'But, with 32 million vaccinated and just 10 deaths yesterday, neither is a risk. Open indoor hospitality now.'

It comes as Boris Johnson was yesterday urged to commit to the May 17 date for reopening pubs and restaurants indoors - as a minister warned decisions cannot be made yet.

People enjoy alfresco dining in Old Compton Street, Soho, yesterday, as lockdown eases

Hospitality bosses have pointed to the crowds of people in retail stores as evidence that bars and restaurants should be allowed to welcome customers inside. Pictured: crowds outside the Harrods department store in West London drinking and standing in groups of more than six

In a letter to the PM, chief executives from big chains including JD Wetherspoon, Young's, Greene King and Pizza Hut called for the roadmap to go ahead - with restrictions fully lifted from June 21.

Mr Johnson has insisted that he sees nothing in the data to suggest the schedule will need to change.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said it is still 'too early to say' whether the loosening can go ahead next month.

As pubs and restaurants reopened in England for outdoor hospitality, the 38 signatories to the letter warned around two-thirds were not able to do so and 'none is breaking even'.

The letter reads: 'We must be driven by data not dates – and the data say it is safe to confirm now the reopening of indoor hospitality on May 17 and the lifting of all social-distancing restrictions on hospitality on June 21.

'This is vital as Government support for hospitality tapers away then, and without it many businesses will be unviable.

Shocked onlookers said these scenes in Newcastle's Northumberland Street resembled hectic Christmas shopping sprees as crowds flocked to shops with little social distancing in place

'The Prime Minister set out the right path. He should stick to it and not let it be derailed by talk of vaccine passports in pubs and restaurants.'

Last week, the boss of Revolution Bars has urged a swifter exit from lockdown after hospitality’s reopening.

Rob Pitcher, 46, hailed Monday’s success as customers braved the cold to enjoy their first pint back after lockdown.

Revolution posted a 73 per cent fall in sales in the six months to December 26, and a £14.7million loss.

Pitcher said: ‘The mood was almost carnival-like. Guests were just delighted to be back out.

‘We are ahead of vaccination progress on every measure the roadmap was built on, so it seems extraordinary that we wouldn’t move the dates forward.’

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