(Reuters) - British pub operator J D Wetherspoon PLC said on Friday it will continue giving masks to customers as well as employees, and encourage placing orders through mobile applications even after England lifts most pandemic-related curbs on July 19.
The company will retain most of the social distancing guidelines set last year, but said it would now allow employees to wear masks at their discretion and permit group visits of more than six persons.
Britain on Friday reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than six months, days before the government plans to relax curbs on pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in England and ease requirements to wear masks.
"While risks from COVID-19 cannot be eliminated completely, we believe that the July 2020 guidelines are a sensible backstop for the industry and strike a fair balance between health, employment and the economy," said Chairman Tim Martin in a statement.
The firm, which owns 860 pubs, said customers would be able to order at the bar as well, besides placing orders through mobile apps.
Wetherspoon, popularly known as just "Spoons", earlier this month said it plans to seek debt waivers from its lenders for the next financial year after it slumped into a first-half loss in March.
The company was forced to remove hundreds of employees and raise money to get through the health crisis, which forced its pubs shut all through the key Christmas season last year.
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)