DRINKERS returning to pubs, bars and restaurants this weekend have been urged to plan ahead and stay safe by police.

Hospitality venues will be opening their doors for the first time since March on Saturday after the easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Visitors will have to stay a metre apart from people they do not live with while many venues are operating a strict booking and pre-ordering policy to ensure people do not get too close.

The majority of staff are likely to be wearing personal protective equipment like face masks.

Andy Starr chairman of Colchester Pubwatch said people must take responsibilty for their own safety.

He said: “All our Pubwatch members have completed risk assessment for the safety of their teams and their guests.

“Make sure you know where you are going.

“Check their social media, check their website and plan how you are going to get home and once you are out in the night time economy you are personally responsible for your actions.

“So come out, have fun, respect others and just have a clean, safe time.”

Essex Police are preparing for people to return.

Chief Insp Lily Benbow: “Our pubs, cafes and restaurants are the heart of our community and we are all really keen to get back out and support our local businesses.

“The majority of the community across Essex have really been supportive and have been sticking to the guidance from our Government.

“We urge you to continue to do so and make that special night a safe night.”

Despite the high level of preparation, a poll of Gazette readers has suggested not many of you will be heading out for a pint or glass of wine this weekend.

Hundreds of people voted in our ballot asking whether they are planning to head to the pub on Saturday, with just six per cent saying it was in their plans.

Some 94 per cent suggested they would stay home.