Coronavirus / Which businesses are allowed to open?

Coronavirus Step 3 – Which businesses are allowed to open?

This information was correct as of 17 May 2021 but is subject to possible changes.

This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

The government’s Roadmap out of lockdown involves several Steps, each of which imposes different restrictions on businesses across England. This can make it difficult to keep track of different businesses and what they are allowed to do.

On 17 May 2021, every area in the UK moved out of Step 2 and into Step 3.

This page provides a brief overview of which businesses can open and which cannot. The full Step 3 regulations (which are in place in every area of England from 12 April) can be found here.

The government has produced guidance with further details about re-opening businesses, which can be found here.

Are restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars allowed to open?

Restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars have been allowed to open as long as they comply with certain conditions. The key restriction is that table service is required (except in the limited circumstances described below).

The conditions under which restaurants, bars and cafés can open are as follows:

  • Those which serve alcohol can open to serve food and drink on the premises if their customers are seated and they provide table service. An area adjacent to the premises, but which is made available for customers or which its customers habitually use, is considered part of the premises.
  • Those which do not serve alcohol do not need to provide table service, but any customers who are eating or drinking on the premises must be seated while they eat or drink.  An area adjacent to the premises, but which is made available for customers or which its customers habitually use, is considered part of the premises.
  • Theatres, cinemas and sportsgrounds are allowed to serve food or drink to customers who have a ticket for a permitted event, as long as the food or drink is served to the customer to consume in the audience seating area.
  • Cafés or canteens at schools or colleges can open, and cafes or canteens at universities or workplaces can open if there is no practical alternative for staff and students to obtain food or drink, as long as alcohol is not served.
  • Cafés or restaurants as part of a hospital or care home.
  • Canteens at criminal justice accommodation, immigration detention accommodation or an establishment intended for use for Her Majesty’s armed forces or for the purposes of the Department of the Secretary of State responsible for defence can open.
  • The premises of any restaurant, bar or café may open for charitable or public support reasons (such as providing food to the homeless).
  • Room service in a hotel is allowed to continue.

As before, restaurants which only serve food or drink to be consumed off the premises can open. This includes those which provide a delivery or pick up system.

Toilets, baby changing rooms or breast-feeding rooms can also stay open in any and all restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars.

The government has produced guidance with further details which can be found here.

Are hotels and other overnight accommodation allowed to open?

Yes. There are now no restrictions on holiday accommodation. The government has produced guidance on how they can be operated safely in coronavirus times, which can be found here.

However, note that there are restrictions on travelling to other parts of the UK. If you are travelling to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you must abide by the regulations in that area. Government guidance offers signposting to the regulations for different areas within the UK here.

There is no longer any legal restriction on leaving the UK, but there are legal restrictions on your return, and other countries may have their own restrictions on incoming passengers. See our articles on travelling back into the UK from a red list country, an amber list country, and a green list country.

Note that restaurants, cafés and bars within hotels are subject to the same rules as above. However, room service is allowed to continue as normal.

What about other indoor activities?

Most indoor activities are opening, but some are still limited.

Indoor Sport venues

Most indoor sports venues can open. Gyms, fitness studios and dance studios, for example, are all allowed to open. However, restrictions on gathering with others  indoors remain in place, and the “rule of six” indoors  may limit some activities.

Sports classes and trainings which are organised by a business, a charity, a benevolent or philanthropic institution, or a public body can take place with any number of participants provided the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

The government has provided guidance with further details as to how sports venues should operate, which can be found here.

Other Indoor venues

Many other indoor venues are now opening. This includes cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, aquariums, museums, galleries, and snooker halls.

However, others are still restricted, such as casinos and nightclubs. A full list can be found in the list of Restricted Businesses here.

Any indoor premises may be used for the making of a film, television programme or audio-visual advertisement. These businesses also have their own guidance on coronavirus safety.

Which businesses are allowed to open as normal?

Some businesses were restricted under Step 1 and 2 but have been removed from this list under Step 3, and therefore can simply open as normal. The government has provided guidance as to how most of these businesses should operate to operate safely during coronavirus, which can be found here.

The businesses which were unable to open under Step 1 or 2 but can now open under Step 3 are as follows:

  • holiday accommodation;
  • most indoor attractions;
  • bingo halls;
  • bowling alleys;
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres;
  • cinemas;
  • conference centres and exhibition halls; and
  • saunas and steam rooms
  • betting shops;
  • spas;
  • tanning salons;
  • nail salons, beauty salons, hair salons, and barbers;
  • massage centres;
  • tattoo and piercing studios;
  • carpet stores;
  • caravans, boats or other vehicle showrooms, including outdoor areas;
  • car washes;
  • auction houses ;
  • markets;
  • retail travel agents.
  • kitchen, bathroom, tile and glazing showrooms;
  • drive in cinemas
  • drive in theatres
  • dance studios;
  • fitness studios;
  • gyms;
  • sports courts;
  • swimming pools;
  • riding arenas.

Which businesses have to remain closed?

There are still many businesses on the Restricted Businesses list which are not able to open, even under the conditions provided above.

The full Restricted Businesses list can be found here.

The businesses which cannot yet open include:

  • Nightclubs;
  • Dance halls;
  • Any other venue which:
    • opens at night, and
    • has a dance floor;
  • Sexual entertainment venues;
  • Hostess bars;
  • Shisha bars;

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

Did you find this content useful?

Help us make our content even better by letting us know whether you found this page useful or not