City Reopening – the next steps for your business

We’ve pulled together key information and guidance below to support our businesses in Southampton as they prepare to open their doors again when lockdown restrictions ease.

On 22 February 2021, the Prime Minister announced the roadmap for recovery and how lockdown restrictions are set to be eased over the coming months. We have summarised the four steps below in terms of businesses reopening*, see the full ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ here.

Step 1 – 8 March 2021

  • Universities can reopen for teaching practical courses
  • You should continue to work from home if you can

Step 2 – 12 April 2021

  • Non-essential retail, personal care (hairdressers, nail salons) and indoor leisure facilities (gyms) can reopen
  • Public buildings and outdoor attractions (libraries, theme-parks, zoos) can reopen
  • Hospitality venues can serve customers outside for table service only (no curfew of ‘substantial’ meal rule) – rule of six/two households
  • You should continue to work from home if you can
  • For all the above venues must be COVID-secure to open and social distancing/face covering rules apply

Step 3 – 17 May 2021

  • Indoor hospitality can reopen with table service only (no curfew of ‘substantial’ meal) – rule of six/2 households
  • Indoor attractions/venues (cinemas, theatre, museums) and accommodation sect can reopen
  • Performances can take place indoors at 1,000 people or half-capacity (whichever is lower) and outdoors with 4,000 or half full (whichever is lower)
  • You should continue to work from home, if you can
  • For all the above venues must be COVID-secure to open and social distancing/face covering rules apply

Step 4 – 21 June 2021

  • Government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact
  • All other businesses will be able to reopen including nightclubs
  • Restrictions will be eased on large events/performances as mentioned in Step 3

*Please note that each of these steps will be at least five weeks apart to allow time for scientific data to show the effects of the previous step on the infections rates. Each step will be reviewed against these four tests:

  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  2. Data shows that vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisation and death in people who are vaccinated
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisation which would put unstainable pressure on the NHS
  4. The risk assessment is not change by new variants of concern

Supporting non-essential retail

Since March 2020 we have been working closely with Southampton City Council to prepare for the city’s reopening. Floor markers, designed by Local Artist Nathan Evans, have been installed outside of stores to assist with queue management. Other measures we have implemented/are implementing with the Council include:

  • Floor arrows within the city centre to encourage a one-way flow of traffic
  • Extra space for residents to walk and cycle more freely especially around busy bus stops
  • Plentiful, secure and convenient cycle parking
  • Enhanced street cleaning regimes for priority and high contact areas

We also produced business guidance for the retail sector prior to opening week which outlines key points to get your business COVID-secure, necessary risk assessment practice and effective queue management for customer-facing businesses. This will be applicable to those reopening after the January 2021 lockdown – view the document here.

Be Smart Stay Apart
For consumers, we’ve created a ‘Keeping Southampton Safe’ webpage on the Visit Southampton website, containing key information and advice to offer consumers reassurance about the measures being taken in the city centre. This will be updated to reflect the easing of lockdown restrictions Spring 2021.

Southampton Inside Out
We’ve been working with the Council and other stakeholders to explore how we can increase/simplify opportunities for outdoor space to be utilised for customer seating. Since July 2020 we have made significant progress and have worked with the Council on the Bedford Place/Carlton Place road closure pilot scheme, read more here. Find out more about our Southampton Inside Out initiative here.

If your business would like to explore outdoor dining opportunities so you can trade outside from 12 April please get in touch with Rebecca at

General guidance for venues

The ‘Working safely during COVID-19’ Government guidance has been updated to give businesses information on best practice and how to operate from 19 July. The guidance includes six priority steps to take:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment
  2. Turn people with COVID-19 symptoms away
  3. Provide adequate ventilation
  4. Clean more often
  5. Enable people to check in at your venue
  6. Communicate and train

See the updated guidance for your sector(s) here.

NHS COVID-19 app
From 19 July 2021, businesses are no longer legally required to ask customers to sign in via the NHS COVID-19 App but it’s recommended that venues still display the QR code poster and can ask customers to sign in if they wish to support the Test & Trace system.

Social Distancing
From 19 July 2021, venues do not need to adhere to social distancing rules and can run at full capacity. However, businesses still can use measures such as spaced out tables or perspex screens if they wish. It is now up to the individual business to decide what is right for them.

Handling food
When handling food, businesses can refer to the Food Standard Agency’s website which has information on reopening and adapting food businesses. This guidance is advised to be used in conjunction with the above Government guidelines. There are pages on cleaning effectively in your business, food safety for food delivery and a reopening checklist.

Minimising Contact
Businesses can continue to minimise contact between customers and staff members. This could be done through the use of an ordering app, encouraging customers to pre-order online, having specific areas or zones for kitchen workers and limiting times at counters or collection points.

Outdoor dining
Southampton City Council’s Licensing Team and Hampshire Constabulary’s Police Licensing Team have released some specific guidance and best practice for hospitality businesses wishing to open from 12 April for outdoor dining. Please read the guidance here.

Working Safely guidance

The Government has released working safely guidance for all other sectors that are permitted to reopen. Below are links to each guide; some organisations may need to refer to more than one:
The Visitor Economy – including accommodation providers and indoor and outdoor attractions
Hotels and Other Guest Accommodation – to be read in conjunction with the Visitor Economy guidance
Heritage Locations – including heritage attractions and various places/businesses that happen to be in a historic building setting
Close Contact Services – including hairdressers/barbershops, tattoo studios, tailors, nail bars, beauty salons and tanning booths
Offices and contact centres – current Government guidance states to work from home, where possible
Shops and branches– includes any type of retail shop, chemists, indoor and outdoor markets and car dealerships
Performing arts
Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
Construction and other outdoor work
Factories, plants and warehouses
Labs and research facilities

Other people’s homes
Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities

Risk Assessments

The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidance to help you work safely / be COVID-secure and manage the risk associated with running your business at this time. Find the full guidance here. It is not mandatory but it is strongly advised that businesses display this official poster in their shop window once they have completed the necessary steps. This will help reassure your customers. Our rangers have been distributing a COVID-secure poster that aligns to the overall ‘Be Smart, Stay Apart’ branding for businesses to display. This is complementary to the official poster and should not replace it. If you would like a copy of the poster please get in touch with us at

Southampton From Your SOfa

Many cultural venues remain unable to open, with significant challenges around adhering to social distancing guidelines in a commercially viable way. Working in partnership with a range of cultural partners across the city we’ve launched ‘Southampton From Your SOfa’ – a digital hub of online content to showcase the city’s cultural sector its positive economic impact.

Content is hosted on our Visit Southampton website and we have commissioned four local artists to bring the campaign to life with support from Solent Showcase Gallery. We have also shared a partner toolkit for our members to help promote this initiative – if you would like the toolkit again please contact us at View the Southampton From Your SOfa content here.

Recovery Plans

City centre recovery plan
Our city-centre recovery plan recaps what we did through the first lockdown in March 2020 to support our levy payers and outlines our current recovery activity and future plans. View the plan on our recovery page here. A printed version of the plan was also hand-delivered to our levy payers.

In September we distributed our Autumn Newsletter – you can view it here.

Covid-19 Winter Plan
During the second lockdown in November, the team worked hard to adjust our priorities and projects to ensure they align with supporting levy payers during November and into Christmas. You can view the plan here.

In December, before Christmas our team delivered our Winter Newsletter – you can view it here.

Spring Reopening 2021 Plan
You can view our latest city centre reopening plan here, to read more about the services and projects we are implementing to help with businesses and the overall city’s recovery.

Contact us

If you have any queries relating to the reopening of your business / the city centre, please contact or contact individual team members here.