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Although official restrictions around face coverings and social distancing have been lifted in England, many independent food and drink retailers across the country are encouraging customers to continue wearing masks to keep staff and other shoppers safe.
A public opinion poll by Kantar revealed that two-thirds of people believe we should keep at least some of the existing restrictions after 19th July. Six in 10 think everyone should wear face masks in shops and on public transport for a further period of time.
In an Instagram post, Sheffield-based zero-waste grocery shop The Unwrapped Shop asked customers to continue wearing masks and social distancing inside the store. “We haven’t taken this decision lightly,” the business said. “We find wearing masks difficult in a labour intensive work environment and they do make communication poorer. And we know a lot of people find masks hard to wear, for many reasons. However, many of our staff are not yet double vaccinated and we have a lot of vulnerable customers.”
Lower Clopton Farm Shop in the Cotswolds also said the staff feel it is “very important to continue with certain measures” to protect shop floor staff and customers. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve focused on making sure everyone can get the food they need in a safe environment,” they said. “While the easing of restrictions means that some safety measures will no longer be a legal requirement, we’ve listened to you, our customers, and our team, and we know many of you remain cautious. So, in line with the government advice to act carefully, we feel it is very important to continue with certain measures to be on the safe side.”
The Bristol Food Union asked customers to continue wearing masks while inside restaurants and to keep eating outside where possible. “As your restaurant community, we care about your safe experience with us, as well as that of our staff,” the group said. “If you find yourself at a venue and disagreeing with their stance on personal safety, we ask that you respect their choice and rebook elsewhere.”
While some shops are easing rules slightly, mask wearing still remains a popular request. For example, Croots Farm Shop owners Steve and Kay Croot said the rule of six would be relaxed in the café and capacity would be increased with the addition of more tables. But they added that safety measures such as screens, sanitising stations and increased cleaning regimes would remain in place, as well as NHS track and trace check ins.
“Whilst face coverings will be a personal choice, we will encourage the use of them whilst walking inside the shop and the café,” they said. “We will review these measures regularly and update them when we feel it’s in the best interest of our customers and team, but for now, we hope you agree that this is the best compromise and safest route.”
Farm shops, food halls and delis are now able to personalise measures to best suit their shop and the safety of their own staff, but without legal requirements in place it is hoped that customers will respect the safety precautions of individual businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses has urged consumers to respect “house rules” at independent shops across England.
“No two businesses are the same, so it’s crucial that small firms have the liberty to install the rules that work for them, including where masks are concerned,” said FSB national chairman Mike Cherry. “We’re urging shoppers, diners and revellers to respect the unique house rules of every business when they’re out and about from Monday.
“It’s vital that small firms feel supported – by government at every level and by the police – when taking steps to keep their customers and staff safe,” he said.
Have you had a positive or negative experience since official mask wearing and social distancing rules ended in England? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
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