What can open when Covid-19 lockdown rules ease on May 17?

Celebrating the opening of The Carlton tavern 12.04.21.
From left Jean Petrou, Antoinette Tully, Lau

Celebrating the opening of The Carlton tavern 12.04.21. From left Jean Petrou, Antoinette Tully, Laura Tully and Emily Rowland - Credit: Polly Hancock

Now that many of the shops, pubs and cafés have returned – al fresco, at least – people around Hampstead and Highgate will be thinking ahead to Step 3 of the government's roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions.  

A further easing of lockdown rules is planned for May 17. The main difference will see indoor hospitality back in business, but also a return for many arts and culture venues.  

For instance, the Freud Museum reopens on May 19; Camden Arts Centre is back on May 21; the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley on May 17, and so too the Everyman cinemas.

The government will announce one week in advance of May 17 whether restrictions will be relaxed as planned, so expect confirmation all of this on May 10. 

What is Step 3 of the roadmap? 


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Provided the data continues its downward trend, Step 3 of prime minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown is scheduled to take effect from May 17. 

From that date, pubs and hospitality should be able to serve customers inside, cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen along with other indoor attractions, and hotels and holiday accommodation can open their doors again. 

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At this step, up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events including wakes. 

The four steps set out in the national roadmap are designed to apply to all regions of England at the same time. 

Following the move to Step 3, further settings will be permitted to open. 

Unless a specific exemption exists, these must only be attended/used in line with the latest wider social contact limits – in a group of six people or two households indoors, or in a group of no more than 30 people outdoors. 

Table service in the garden at The Garden Gate pub on South End Green 17.04.21. Pictured carrying dr

Table service in the garden at The Garden Gate pub on South End Green 17.04.21. Pictured carrying drinks, Val, shift supervisor - Credit: Polly Hancock

When can pubs open indoors? 

Indoor areas of hospitality venues such as pubs, cafés and restaurants will reopen from Step 3. 

Hospitality businesses across the country will be able to open up indoors from May 17, albeit with some restrictions still in place. 

After eating and drinking al fresco since Step 2 of lockdown easing on April 12, there will be no need to check the weather forecast every time you head to the pub or restaurant from May 17. 

Pubs can welcome back customers for a pint inside, rather than outdoor service only, while indoor dining will also resume across the hospitality sector. 

As outdoors, table service will be still be required. So check in advance, and don't forget to pre-book your table. 

As in Step 2, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, nor will there be a curfew. 

However, customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated. 

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown.
Pictured, friends sit around an ou

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown. Pictured, friends sit around an outdoor table outside Karma Bread on South End Green. From left Claire Bristow, Jeremy Warner, Thomas Jones and Imogen Culten who are all doctors at the Royal Free Hospital. - Credit: Polly Hancock

What indoor attractions can open at Step 3? 

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions will be allowed to reopen from Step 3, no earlier than May 17. According to Cabinet Office guidance on www.gov.uk, this will include: 

  • cinemas (outdoor cinemas will also be permitted to open) 
  • theatres (outdoor theatres will also be permitted to open) 
  • concert halls 
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres 
  • bingo halls 
  • casinos 
  • bowling alleys 
  • snooker and pool halls. 
  • Indoor as well as outdoor attractions will also reopen at the following: 
  • museums and galleries 
  • adventure playgrounds and activities 
  • skating rinks 
  • games and recreation venues, including laser quest, escape rooms, paintballing and recreational driving facilities 
  • play areas, including soft play centres and inflatable parks 
  • model villages 
  • trampolining parks 
  • water and aqua parks 
  • theme parks and film studios 
  • zoos, safari parks, aquariums and other animal attractions 
  • botanical gardens, greenhouses and biomes 
  • sculpture parks 
  • landmarks including observation wheels or viewing platforms 
  • stately or historic homes, castles, or other heritage sites. 
12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown.Pictured Tricia van Geens, shop ma

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown. Pictured Tricia van Geens, shop manager at the Octavia Foundation charity shop South End Green NW3 - Credit: Polly Hancock

What else can open from May 17 when lockdown eases? 

Conference centres and exhibition halls will also be able to open, and private dining and banqueting events, subject to the capacity limits set out by the government. 

Remaining holiday accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen, as can saunas and steam rooms, which are currently closed. 

Indoor adult team sports and group exercise classes at gyms will return. 

Other events and activities that are able to commence from Step 3 (no earlier than May 17) include: 

  • Business functions such as conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, charity auctions, and private dining events such as charity or gala dinners and awards ceremonies, and corporate hospitality 
  • Air shows, historical/battle re-enactments, live animal performances such as falconry displays at events, and non-elite and professional sporting events. 
12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown.Pictured in the beer garden at the

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown. Pictured in the beer garden at the William the fourth, Landlord Jimmy McGrath, Michael Morrissey and John Stanton enjoy their first post lockdown Guinness - Credit: Polly Hancock

How many people can attend events? 

Indoor events and remaining outdoor events, such as elite sports, business events, cinemas and live performance events, will be permitted from Step 3. 

Attendances will be restricted though. 

Events recommencing at Step 3 will be subject to the following capacity caps: 

  • 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, for indoor events 
  • 4,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower for outdoor events. 
  • For outdoor events taking place in venues with seated capacity of over 16,000, event organisers may apply a 25% capacity cap, up to a maximum of 10,000 seated people. 
12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown.Outdoor dining on Perrins Court

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown. Outdoor dining on Perrins Court - Credit: Polly Hancock

What children’s activities can open from May 17? 

Families will be delighted to know indoor children's activities, such as soft play areas, should be open again from May 17. 

Places that can open include play areas, including soft play centres and inflatable parks. 

How many households can mix from May 17? 

As part of Step 3, no earlier than May 17, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible. 

This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal for now. 

Indoors, the 'Rule of 6' or two households will apply but the government is keeping this under review. 

Does social distancing still apply from May 17? 

The government is due to update advice on social contact between friends and family, including hugging. 

But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble. 

Before Step 4 begins, the government will also complete a full review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut coronavirus transmission, such as the wearing of face coverings. 

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown.Outside seating at The Wrestlers H

12 April 2021, non essential retail and pubs open after lockdown. Outside seating at The Wrestlers Highgate - Credit: Polly Hancock

How many people can attend my wedding from May 17? 

As part of the Step 3 rules, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are permitted for up to 30 people in Covid-19 secure venues that are allowed to open. This is up from the current number of 15 people.  

This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events, including bar mitzvahs and christenings. 

Government guidance says receptions can also go ahead with up to 30 people in a Covid-19 secure indoor venue, or outdoors. This includes private gardens. 

Further details on receptions at this step will be updated by the government.  

At Step 4, the government hopes to remove all limits on weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and receptions. 

This will be subject to the results of the Scientific Events Research programme. 

How many can attend a funeral?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said on Monday, May 3 that the legal limit of 30 mourners will be removed as part of the next stage of lockdown easing, expected on May 17.

Instead, the capacity will be determined by how many people venues, such as places of worship or funeral homes, can safely accommodate while maintaining social distancing.

This includes both indoor and outdoor venues and all organisers must continue to be COVID-secure and follow social distancing rules, the MHCLG said.

While venue capacities will vary, many will allow "significantly" more than 30 people to attend, the MHCLG said.

Galton Flowers in Hampstead

Galton Flowers in Hampstead - Credit: Polly Hancock

When is Step 4? 

The fourth step of the government's lockdown easing roadmap is scheduled for no earlier than Monday, June 21. 

In Step 4 – five weeks after Step 3 – the government hopes to reopen remaining venues, such as nightclubs. 

It also hopes to lift the restrictions on social contact and large events that apply in Step 3, enabling gigs, festivals and theatre performances to attract crowds above the Step 3 capacity restrictions. 

This is subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme, and a review of social distancing measures. 

Officials will also look to relax Covid-secure requirements on businesses, subject to the outcome of the reviews. 

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