(CNN) — The thought of a pint of beer in a proper pub is a dream that has sustained many people in the UK through the tough months of coronavirus lockdown, but as the doors to drinking establishments finally reopen after four months on Saturday, a potential nightmare looms.
Just a week after thousands of British people flouted social-distancing rules to crowd beaches in a heatwave, it's feared the heady mix of alcohol and a sense of liberation from restrictions, at a time when daily infections are still in the hundreds, could prove disastrous.
Extra police have been put on standby, warnings have been issued by the government and numerous guidelines put in place. But concerns still remain that, no matter how committed people are to keeping coronavirus at bay, after a few drinks that will all go out of the window.
In the days before July 4, thirsty Brits could be forgiven for looking ahead to a day of carefree celebration. Amid announcements of several new freedoms, newspapers called it "Independence Day" or "Super Saturday" while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was a "patriotic duty" to go to the pub.
Of course, going to the pub isn't going to be the same breezy experience as it was before the pandemic. As with everything in this brave new world, there are rules. Forty-six pages of them, to be precise. Those inevitably mean confusion, and potential for further chaos.
A quiet place
Social distancing markers are laid in front of the bar at the Chandos Arms pub in London.
For the most part, drinkers will need to pre-book. Table service is in while the tradition of propping up the bar and waving bank notes at overrun staff to get their attention is out.
In larger chain pubs, such as those run by the Wetherspoons company, drinks will have to be ordered via an app. Contactless card payments, instead of cash, are set to become the norm.
There'll be no more crowding into spaces the size of living rooms to cheer on soccer teams in their final few matches of the Premier League season. Sport can be screened, but quietly. Music too must only be played at low volume. Speaking loudly and shouting can spread the virus, so punters are also being asked to keep the noise down.
"For the customer, with screens separating the bar and pay points, servers needing to wear PPE such as masks and visors, one-way systems, and the need to stay outside as much as possible -- not only will the pub look physically different, but the experience itself will feel very different too," says James Lintern, co-founder of RotaCloud, which provides staff management software to pubs.
"We will be introducing several changes," says Keith McAvoy, CEO of Se7en Brothers Brewing Co and owner of two beer houses in Manchester. These include table service, dividing screens to split up large tables, full PPE for staff and reducing customer numbers from 150 to between 50 and 70.
"The biggest will be the number of customers allowed in the bars, we will have to rem