Pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and museums prepare to reopen

Britain prepares to unlock: Pubs and restaurants, cinemas, theatres and museums apply finishing touches and unveil Covid-safe restrictions guests face when rules ease on May 17

Pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and museums across England are preparing to welcome back customers in six days’ time after Boris Johnson confirmed the return of indoor hospitality and attractions next Monday.

Social distancing markers, hand sanitising stations, mandatory pre-booking and the wearing of face masks are among the measures which will be in place when people return to venues which have been shut for months. 

Cinemas, museums, theatres and concert halls will reopen although there will be capacity limits on large events, while pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors but it will be table service only. 

Among the policies being introduced are a virtual queuing system via a QR code at Nandos restaurants, Hollywood Bowl allowing visitors to wear their own shoes, and better air circulation at Vue cinemas.

The move to the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown on May 17 comes after the Covid-19 alert level in the UK was downgraded yesterday after a ‘consistent’ fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Here is what different industries are doing to prepare to welcome back Britons indoors from next Monday:  


Sculptors have been preparing mannequins at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden ahead of the site reopening next Monday, with all tickets having to be booked in advance within timed slots.

Access inside historical vehicles is limited because they would be damaged by cleaning products used elsewhere, while the book corner is also closed. Face masks are mandatory for visitors apart from those with exemptions.

Hand sanitisers and hand washing facilities will be available at multiple points throughout the museum, while social distancing will be maintained with the use of markings to indicate the required distance. 

Sculptor Garry Hall cleans a mannequin at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden ahead of reopening next week 

Workers carry a mannequin horse into the London Transport Museum ahead of the site reopening on Monday next week

Sculptor Garry Hall cleans a mannequin at the London Transport Museum ahead of the venue reopening next week

After 152 days with its doors closed, the National Gallery in London will also open again, and will keep in place the changes from in July 2020 when it was the first major UK national art museum to reopen after the initial lockdown.

These include all visits having to be booked online and in advance to manage the number of people inside and limit queuing. Entrance will be via the Sainsbury Wing Entrance and exit through the Getty Entrance.

The National Gallery is also maintaining three one-way art routes that guide people through different areas of the collection, but has adapted these – while there are also a number of new free exhibitions opening.

Some of its rooms are not open, in particular the smaller rooms, although key works from them will be visible to visitors. The gallery will be open seven days a week from 11am to 6pm, and closing at 9pm on Fridays. 

Visitors wear masks and sit apart as they look at Eva Gonzales by Edouard Manet at the National Gallery in London

A woman wears a face mask as she views a work at the National Gallery in London which will reopen next Monday

People are guided into the National Gallery in London where tickets must be pre-booked to manage visitor numbers

A member of staff stands by Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba by Claude at the National Gallery in London

The British Museum will also open in London next Monday, with most of its galleries set to be open, from the Egyptian mummies, to the treasures of Sutton Hoo and a collection about the Islamic World.

Entry is ticketed, both for free permanent collections and paid exhibitions. Face coverings are required, and there will be a one-way route signposted through the museum. Hand sanitiser stations are also in place. 

A new ‘Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint’ exhibition at the museum will run from May 20 to August 22, featuing 800-year-old stained glass windows on loan from Canterbury Cathedral. 

A staff member at the British Museum in London looks at a piece of the Magna Carta (1225) in the new ‘Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint’ exhibition which runs from May 20 to August 22 as the museum gets ready for the public

A member of museum staff poses next to a series of stained glass windows at the British Museum in London

A member of museum staff puts finishing touches to an exhibit, including a piece of the Magna Carta, at the British Museum

The Imperial War Museum in London will reopen next Wednesday – May 19 – and will require visitors to pre-book timed tickets. IWM North and IWM Duxford will also be reopening on the same day.

It has extended its Refugees season of exhibitions, with London, Refugees: Forced to Flee, Life in a Camp, and A Face to Open Doors now running until June 13, and Ai Weiwei’s artwork, History of Bombs, until September 5. 

The IWM shop is only accepting card payments, and there will be hand sanitiser points around the museum as well as an enhanced cleaning regime. Staff have also requested that people only visit if they are feeling well. 

Two visitors wear face masks as they look at an exhibit in the atrium of the Imperial War Museum in London 

Two visitors look at a screen which is part of the Refugees season of exhibitions that the Imperial War Museum has extended 


Vue cinemas will be reopening all of its 88 venues from next Monday acorss England, Wales and Scotland, with upcoming highlights including Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and A Quiet Place Part II.

The chain said it is focusing on five key areas to ensure safety, including online booking; enhanced cleaning protocols and employee PPE; physically distanced seating; reduced touch points; and enhanced ventilation.

Toby Bradon from Vue: ‘We’ve added nearly 5,000 luxury recliner seats across our venues, launched snack and seat self-order screens in seven of our venues and added brand new premium bars to a number of our foyers.’

People wear face masks as they watch a film at a Vue cinema in Croydon, South London, after the first lockdown was lifted

A member of Vue staff wears a face mask as they serve drinks to cinema goers at a branch in Croydon, South London

A cinema-goer has their ticket checked by a Vue member of staff at a venue in Croydon, South London

Odeon has confirmed it will be reopening most of its cinemas across Britain next Monday, including its flagship Leicester Square, Trafford Centre and Birmingham Broadway Plaza venues.

Among its Covid-secure protocols are guaranteeing unoccupied seats between parties, staggering film start times to reduce queues and operating queuing measures with floor markings and help from staff.

Among the major releases the chain said film fans will be looking forward to seeing over the next 18 months are No Time to Die, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick and Fast & Furious 9.

A member of staff at an Odeon cinema wears protective gloves and a face mask as they serve popcorn to a visitor

Odeon has implemented hand sanitiser stations at its cinemas like many other businesses to help make the sites Covid-secure

An Odeon member of staff wears a face mask and stands behind a protective screen as they serve popcorn to a visitor


Among the theatres set to reopen in the coming weeks is the London Palladium, with 17 performances of ‘Here Come The Boys’ from May 25 with social distancing, before Van Morrison (June 1-5) and Lee Mead on June 10.

There will also be a Phil Wang Netflix Special on June 12 and Hair The Musical on June 15. Full audience performances are set to resume with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from 1 July.

Safety measures include hand sanitising stations, one-way routes, face coverings, enhanced clearing and ventilation, protective screens and contactless payment at bars and retail outlets.  

The London Palladium opened last July for a test event with a Beverley Knight gig and social distancing in the audience 

A member of staff cleans the handrail at the London Palladium which is preparing to welcome back audiences this month

Seats are marked with a cross at the London Palladium to ensure social distancing is followed by those attending

It come as leading arts charity the Theatres Trust said the reopening of theatres with social distancing and Covid protocols next week gives a ‘positive indication’ that the industry can get back to normal soon.

However, the trust also warned that it will still be impossible for many theatres to open their doors while there is a cap on capacity, and the theatres that do open with social distancing will be operating at a loss.

Julian Bird, from the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, added: ‘A number of theatres will be welcoming audiences back to socially distanced performances while also creating work for our world leading workforce.’ 

A theatre-goer has her ticket checked at the London Palladium as she attends a socially distanced performance last year

Members of staff wear face masks and stand apart at the London Palladium which is preparing to reopen

Denise van Outen leads a troupe of West End singers and dancers in a performance outside the Dominion Theatre on May 5


Various other indoor attractions are also set to reopen next Monday, including the London Eye which will feature reduced capacities, social distancing measures, pre-booking tickets online and enhanced cleaning.

A range of safety precautions have been put in place at all Merlin attractions, including pre-booking, temperature checks, social distancing, smaller group sizes and the wearing of masks by visitors and staff members. 

A family ride the London Eye last July while another group can be seen socially distanced in the next pod along

Madame Tussauds London will also be reopening on May 17, with all visitors required to wear face coverings unless they have an exemption – and we social distancing markers installed throughout the attraction.

Guest-facing employees will be wearing personal protective equipment including facemasks and visors, and hygiene screens have been installed in front of many of the food stalls and shop counters  

Boris Johnson’s figure at Madame Tussauds London is prepared for the attraction’s reopening in August last year

A Madame Tussauds London artist gets Anthony Joshua’s figure ready for its comeback when the attraction reopens

Also reopening next Monday are 57 Hollywood Bowl ten-pin bowling alleys and Puttstars locations. They have adopted a ‘Have Fun, Play Safe’ policy to ensure safety measures are in line with Government guidelines. 

This includes the installation of lane seating dividers and new distinctive balls which are designated to each lane. Other measures include cleaning all balls, putters, touch screens and seating after each customer group.

There is also wider spacing between amusement machines and dining seating, with social distancing measures and signage throughout each venue. Visitors can also wear their own shoes to bowl in if they wish.  

Hollywood Bowl has  measures including cleaning all balls, putters, touch screens and seating after each customer group

Sea Life centres are also reopening next Monday, including the flagship site on London’s South Bank. Here, staff and guests are asked to participate in a temperature check using a non-touch thermometer.

Bosses are restricting the number of guests who can visit each day, to ensure they can maintain social distancing across the attraction – and visitors must wear a face covering when visiting as a condition of entry unless exempt. 

Families experience the UK’s largest living coral reef display at Sea Life London Aquarium on the South Bank last August


Pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality firms will be able to open indoor areas from May 17, with groups of up to six people or two households able to wine and dine inside venues in the third roadmap phase.

Customers will also be required to order, eat and drink while seated with table service, although there will be no curfew or ‘substantial meal’ restrictions which had been imposed prior to the latest lockdown. 

From next Monday, people will also be able to meet in groups of up to 30 in outdoor areas such as beer gardens, which have been open since April 12 with ‘rule of six’ curbs in place. 

A staff member wearing a face shield at the Greene King pub Fort St George in Cambridge which will also now serve indoors

A customer sanitises their hands at The Mossy Well, a J D Wetherspoon pub in Muswell Hill, North London, in July last year

Wetherspoon will reopen 860 pubs with full menus and will bring back meal clubs including curry and steak nights from next Monday as coronavirus restrictions are finally eased.

Next week 309 more pubs will be opened including a new branch, the Buck Inn in Northallerton, from 8am until midnight from Sunday through to Thursday, and 8am until 1am on Friday and Saturday. 

According to the real estate adviser Altus Group, 99,045 indoor hospitality premises in England will be able to reopen on May 17 as a result of changes to restrictions. 

A member of staff wearing a face mask serves food at Wetherspoon pub the Goldengrove in Stratford, East London, last July

Nandos said it will be operating a similar system to the eat in experience that was on offer last year, with each restaurant operating under a reduced capacity to help maintain social distancing.

It said this means there will be fewer tables available at any one time and waiting times to be seated might be a little longer than usual, with each location operating a virtual queuing system via a QR code.

This can be scanned via a mobile phone, with customers allotted a virtual slot in the queue and then alerted when their table is ready via a text message or notification. Tables of up to six people will be available.

Before and after pictures of the renovation at the Brown Cow pub in Gateacre, Liverpool, one of 700 Hawthorn pubs

Costa Coffee has been operating a takeaway service at many branches throughout the third lockdown as well as outdoor seating since April 12, but will reopen its indoor areas for customers to sit down in from May 17.

Bosses are ‘continually updating our policies and procedures to align with the latest Government guidelines’, and have implemented social distancing, hand-sanitiser stations and enhanced cleaning across outlets.

They have also put in place additional training and support for staff, and say they legally required to request that customers provide their contact details to support NHS Test and Trace, where indoors or outdoors. 

Customers are seen at The Holland Tringham pub in London last July, as Wetherspoon pubs plan to reopen indoors next week

Pizza Express will be reopening 347 restaurants across the country next week, having opened 143 pizzerias for ‘Al Fresco’ April last month – and has 5,000 staff ready to work from May 17.

The full reopening next week will mark the first time that each and every one of its pizzerias in England, Wales and Scotland will be open since the first lockdown in March last year.

Measures remain in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and customers include a physically distanced layout, hand sanitiser stations, heightened hygiene procedures and regular health checks of staff.

Pizza Express has hand sanitising stations across its restaurants and a digital menu to reduce touch points 

Café Rouge is also reopening its restaurants for indoor dining across England, including its Portsmouth branch which has newly-refurbished interiors and two new outdoor dining pods. 

The Café Rouge restaurant in Portsmouth has newly-refurbished interiors and two new outdoor dining pods

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of pub group Young’s, said: ‘Young’s accepts the cautious approach the Prime Minister has been taking.

‘All of us hope that this means that we can safely and sensibly get to the end of the road, when relaxation of restrictions are indeed irreversible.

‘It has been a brutal 14 months for a sector that employs millions of people and contributes billions of pounds to the Treasury in normal times.’

Toilets at some Greene King pubs have a contraption to avoid having to touch anything to show that a door is locked

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: ‘It’s great that from next Monday we’ll be able to welcome our customers back inside our pubs and get more of our team members back to work.

‘Since we reopened outdoors in some of our pubs in April, frequent spells of cold and wet weather have made it particularly trying for our teams who are serving our customers outside.

‘Even though the vast majority of our of our pubs will be open next week, we’ll still be operating at significantly reduced capacity, so it’s essential all restrictions disappear as promised on June 21 so we can return to the full pub experience that people have missed so much.’ 

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