Drinkers would be encouraged to order pints on smartphone apps and pubs could be patrolled to ensure social-distancing measures are enforced under plans to ease the lockdown for the hospitality sector.
Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement next week on pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels – with their reopening in England an ambition from 4 July to start reviving the ailing economy.
With the coronavirus alert level having been reduced on Friday, the prime minister believes he has some space to relax measures in a boost for the sector.
Whitehall officials said the review he ordered into the two-metre social-distancing rule, which seeks to slow the spread of the virus but would constrain the hospitality sector, is expected to conclude next week.
Guidance drawn up by the hospitality sector and ministers is understood to encourage pub-goers to order drinks using apps instead of going to the bar, while current legislation was said to include the powers for patrols.
The Times reported that restaurant tables would not be set in advance – cutlery would be delivered with the food – and room service would be left outside doors in hotels under the guidance.
It was being stressed that decisions on further easings were yet to be made, but the PM said the lowering of the alert level from four to three allows ministers to “start making some progress” on social-distancing measures.
And he promised new guidance for the hospitality sector and businesses “very shortly”.
The downgrading – recommended by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) – means transmission of coronavirus is no longer considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.