The realities of hosting a socially distanced barbecue

Can you lob a burger bun to someone standing two metres away? Time to find out… 

Boris Johnson has eased lockdown rules once again, which means six people from different households can now meet up. So long as, y’know, they do so outside and adhere to social distancing guidelines (if there’s one thing we’ve learned from all this, it’s that the coronavirus can’t jump a two-metre gap. Thank Christ, eh?).

This means, of course, that we’re now able to have BBQs and garden parties to make the most of all this beautiful summer weather. But… well, what would a socially distanced barbecue actually look like?

Naturally, we’ve given it some thought. And, with this in mind, here’s everything you need to know ahead of hosting yours.

First, compile your guestlist

You’re only allowed six people at this shindig, including yourself, so you’re going to have to make some hard and fast cuts. Especially if, say, you’re 1/7 of S Club 7.

Oh sure, there ain’t no party like an S Club party, but that doesn’t mean you can break the rules. Find the Paul Cattermole of your septet (after all, he left the group back in 2002 to pursue a nu-metal career) and relegate them to your back-up guestlist. 

You know it makes sense.

Next, bagsy your BBQ ingredients

Toilet paper, eggs, and flour are no longer going to be the elusive ‘can’t find’ items at your local supermarket: burgers, corn on the cobs, sausages, halloumi, buns, fizzy drinks, wine and the like are. Make a list, grab a trolley, and get going. 

Just… please don’t be an ass about it: stockpiling is never cool, even if it’s with non-essentials.

The next bit’s where it gets tricky, because…

You’re probably gonna need a bigger garden…

If you invite six people into a garden and they all have to stay two metres apart, just how big a garden will you need? That’s a very good question.

Confession time: I’m not good at maths. Actually, I’m very, very bad at maths. The sight of numbers on a page sends me into a blind panic. So, when confronted with this dilemma, I immediately messaged one of my cleverest friends (an Oxford University graduate, no less) for help.

“Snorefest,” they replied almost instantly.

“Because… because of the topic, or because it’s too easy a question?”

“Too easy! It needs to be 8 square metres.”

I pondered this for a moment. 

“Is that massive? It sounds massive.”

My friend, no doubt rolling their eyes from across the WhatsApp void, was quick to reassure me.

“Just a rectangle of 2m by 4m. Your garden [dear reader, I pay a premium train fare to live in the boringly Deliveroo-free suburbs] would be fine… just about. Most London gardens, though? Not so much.”

A bigger garden with a side-gate, at that

People are (as per Johnson’s announcement) SORT OF NOT REALLY ALLOWED INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, which means you need a side-gate. If you don’t have one, consider cutting a hole in your fence. Alternatively, position a particularly bouncy trampoline on either side of your fence, so people can jump over, Shaun Of The Dead-style. Or, if you’re feeling particularly flash, why not ask your guests to throw caution to the wind (they’re already facing Covid-19, after all) and have them parachute their way into your lawn?

The decision is yours.

Make that a bigger garden with a side-gate AND an outdoor toilet

As already mentioned, your BBQ guests are SORT OF NOT REALLY ALLOWED INSIDE YOUR HOUSE. This means that you’re going to need to set up some sort of outdoor toilet facility, like the portaloos you see at festivals, or a bucket positioned discreetly behind a particularly leafy shrub.

If, for whatever reason, this isn’t possible, then you need to stress the importance of cleanliness upon your guests. Insist upon them wearing plastic gloves (the kind you find inside a DIY box dye kit), disposable shoe covers (the sort they wear in CSI), and masks. Equip them with Dettol wipes and bleach. Insist they take their own loo roll with them. And remind them they have to clean EVERY SINGLE THING THEY TOUCH OR BREATHE UPON IN YOUR HOME before exiting.

It actually might be a good idea to leave a few hard-to-clean obstacles in their path, such as the oven door, to save on a few household chores later. Why the hell not, eh?

Plus, you’re going to need a very strong arm…

Remember, you can’t go within two metres of someone because there’s a global pandemic on and… you know, safety first. This means that you can’t pass the salad or ketchup as you normally would: you’re going to have to lob it over a distance of two metres. Same with the burgers. 

Maybe make a game out of it and have people stand waiting with their buns dressed and open, then flip your grilled meat in their general direction. It’s up to them to dive and catch it safely within that bread roll.

Just make sure to have spares of pretty much everything, as we imagine this ‘game’ is prone to multiple mistakes.

… or prepared to look utterly, utterly mad

Remember the Mad Hatter’s tea party, as attended by the eponymous character of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland? Remember how they all kept getting up and switching places without any warning whatsoever? Remember how we laughed? Remember how we said they were all bonkers, every single one of them, and that we didn’t want to go among mad people?


As it turns out, the Mad Hatter wasn’t mad: he was simply practicing good social distancing rules in what was undoubtedly Wonderland’s version of a coronavirus lockdown. You and your guests will need to follow his good example whenever you want to get to the salad bowls, the grilled sausages, the halloumi skewers, the ketchup, the iced beer bucket, the burger buns.

The easiest way to achieve this? Set all your different BBQ elements out separately in a circle. Then, whenever someone wants to add to their plate or glass, all they need do is scream the words “ALL CHANGE!” and everyone has to shift clockwise by two metres, taking the place of the guest before them.

It’s simple, really. Albeit… yeah, mad.

Most importantly, though? Don’t get drunk

Not because hangovers are worse in lockdown (they 100% are), but because… well, because it’s going to be even bloody harder keeping up with all of those social distancing rules when you’ve got half a bottle of white wine inside you.

Can you imagine yourself keeping two metres away from your BFF when you’re both feeling squiffy and growing increasingly emotional about all those moments missed together in lockdown? Can you?

Nope, didn’t think so. Steer clear of the booze, folks. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

A note from the author: the government has urged people to “avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession” to make sure the virus doesn’t continue to spread. So it might be best to keep this ridiculous BBQ between yourself and one other household, yeah?

Images: Getty

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