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What the roadmap out of lockdown means for small business owners


What the roadmap out of lockdown means for small business owners

Updated: 19 October 2021

On 22nd February, the Government finally announced its highly anticipated four-phase roadmap out of lockdown — and contained within it were some key dates to help small business owners prepare for the road ahead. Here we look at the various phases and what this means for business owners across the sectors affected.

The Government’s four-phase roadmap

Phase 1: March

8th March

From this date, both primary and secondary schools return and can resume outdoor sports matches and activities. Care home visits indoors will resume, and people will be able to engage in recreational activities outside with one person outside their household or support bubble.

29th March

From 29th March, outdoor sports facilities will be able to reopen, including tennis and basketball courts, as well as golf courses.  Organised adult and children’s sport, including grassroots football, will also be allowed to return. Parents and children’s groups can return but will be capped at 15 and must be outdoors.

In addition, outdoor gatherings will be allowed up to a maximum of 6 people from multiple households, or two households of any size. 

Phase 2: April

Some businesses are expected to be able to reopen in this phase from 12th April. These include:

  • Gyms, spas, swimming pools and indoor exercise venues
  • Non-essential retail
  • Pubs and restaurants (can only serve table service outdoors)
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons all close contact beauty services
  • UK holiday accommodation can reopen to members of the same household

In addition, the Government aims to vaccinate all adults over the age of 50, who are most at risk of hospitalisation from coronavirus, by 15th April.

Phase 3: May

Provided phases 1 and 2 have gone smoothly, by 17th May, the following businesses will be allowed to reopen:

  • Pubs and restaurants (can serve indoors with table service only)
  • Outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas
  • Indoor entertainment, such as museums, theatres, cinemas and children’s play areas
  • Performances and large events (subject to a limit of half capacity or 1,000 people in indoor events, or half capacity or up to 4,000 people for outdoor events — whichever is lower. Large venues of at least 40,000 capacity will be allowed to have 10,000 attend)
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs
  • Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes

In addition, the rule of six will apply for indoor mixing. Six people, or two households, will be allowed to meet indoors. People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors.

Phase 4: 21st June

The fourth and final phase expects to see a further relaxation of restrictions on social contact. All legal limits on social contact will be removed. There will be no legal limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, funerals or other life events.

Finally, at this stage, nightclubs will also be allowed to reopen.

So, what does this mean for small businesses?

While the most fleshed-out part of the Government’s plan focused on the reopening of schools at the beginning of March, there was a lot of good news for small businesses in the roadmap. With tentative timescales announced, small business owners finally have a clearer picture of when they can open and potentially operate closer to normal, although there will be some changes in how they operate in the short term. Below, we go through each of the sectors affected to discuss the changes these businesses will face as the roadmap proceeds.

Gyms, spas, swimming pools and sports venues

One of the first types of businesses that can reopen, outdoor sports venues are expected to be reopened on 29th March. Following that, gyms, spas and swimming pools are expected to be able to reopen on 12th April. There will be some new measures in place for these businesses to juggle though.

As restrictions on mixing indoors are expected to still be in place at this time, these venues will only be able to be accessed by those in the same household, or customers visiting alone. Exercise classes will still not be able to resume as the Government attempts to reduce contact between people from different households as they work out. Previous measures including social distancing, regular cleaning and other Covid-secure regulations are still expected to apply at this time.

There may be a further easing of these rules on 17th May, as the rule of six may be brought back in to allow more people to mix indoors. At this stage, saunas and steam rooms will be allowed to reopen, and adult indoor group sports and exercise classes will be allowed to resume.

Finally, by June, as restrictions are eased even further, all venues should be able to operate as normal, with no further social distancing measures required.

Non-essential retail

Under the phased roadmap, all non-essential retail businesses will be permitted to reopen from 12th April. However, the way they operate will be slightly different than the way they did when they reopened at the end of the first lockdown.

Because mixing indoors will still not be permitted until at least 17th May, this means non-essential retail stores will only be allowed to serve customers visiting alone, or with their household group. Past this date, the rule of six will be brought back in to enable customers to mix indoors.

In addition, face masks will likely still be required in shops until at least 17th June, so non-essential retail stores will still be required to police the wearing of face masks in their premises.

Pubs, restaurants and hospitality

While pubs, restaurants and hospitality may be able to reopen as early as 12th April, there will be certain restrictions placed on them to open at this stage. This includes only being able to serve customers outdoors, though this means that customers that visit will adhere to the guidance on outdoor meetings that comes into force on 29th March (the rule of six, or two households of any size). Venues will also only be able to conduct table service at this time.

Fortunately, hospitality venues will no longer be subject to the pub curfew or the requirement to serve a substantial meal with alcohol.

In addition, as we approach 17th May, these hospitality venues should be able to resume indoor service again, although limits on groups (such as the rule of six) and social distancing measures will still be in place. Coming to 21st June, all social distancing measures will be relaxed, and these establishments will be able to operate as normal.

Businesses involved in weddings, funerals and other life events

As restrictions on the amount of people that are allowed to attend weddings, funerals and other life events are set to increase to 30 by 17th May and be lifted by 21st June, businesses involved in the planning of these finally have a date they can work with. This coincides nicely with the opening of most of the hospitality sector on 17th May, allowing for these types of venues to be booked and catering to be organised.


Though the travel sector has been one of the worst affected by the pandemic, the roadmap also gives some hope that things could be set to improve come May. With holidays within the UK set to return on 12th April, this could give the travel sector a much-needed boost at a time when it really needs it.

In addition, foreign holidays also may be able to resume by 17th May. The Government plans to conduct a review on the safety of reopening borders on this date, so there’s hope that some of the stringent travel measures will potentially be relaxed around then, allowing for people to book foreign holidays again.

Hairdressers, beauty salons and all personal care

Alongside other non-essential retail, hairdressers, beauty salons and all businesses involved in personal care could see themselves able to reopen as early as 12th April, if the phases proceed as planned. They will be subject to the same Covid-secure regulations as they were previously and, in addition, as indoor mixing will still be restricted at this point, customers will be expected to attend alone, or with their household. These restrictions on indoor mixing will be relaxed on 17th May and then will end on 21st June.

All information is correct at time of publishing. While we want to help as much as we can, the information and documents found here are provided solely for informational purposes and should not be considered financial or legal advice. To the extent permitted by law, Funding Circle does not accept any liability for any loss or damage which may arise directly or indirectly from the use of, or reliance on, the information contained here.If you have any questions, please speak to your professional adviser or seek independent legal advice.

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