Inside Mecca Bingo as it prepares to reopen halls on July 4 with table service and early bird sessions

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BINGO fans can once more try their luck at a full house as Mecca Bingo reopens its doors on July 4 with table service and early bird sessions.

Throughout lockdown fans have only been able to play bingo online at Mecca but the chain plans a phased reopening from Saturday, which will see 35 clubs in England initially reopen their doors.

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Bingo halls in Scotland and Wales will follow at a later date once confirmed by the devolved governments.

Ahead of reopening, The Sun took an exclusive look inside the chain’s Dagenham branch in London to find out what punters can expect.

The first thing you’ll notice is bright signs outside of branches welcoming people back alongside posters explaining social distancing rules.

These point out that you should keep your distance from other households, wash your hands thoroughly, use contactless payments where possible, and be kind to each other.

There will be limits on numbers allowed inside, although this will vary by location depending on the size of the hall.

On entry, you’ll either need to tap in with the My Mecca app on your phone, which allows you to download a digital card from July 4, or you can swipe your physical membership card on the card reader.

This also means Mecca can keep track of who is using the facilities in a bid to help track and trace coronavirus outbreaks.

Mecca membership is free but to play you’ll need to purchase either paper bingo tickets or a “Mecca Max” tablet (an electronic device) to play your tickets electronically.

You’ll notice hand sanitiser stations at entrances and around clubs.

Mecca says all staff have undertaken e-training courses on how to operate safely, while films for customers have been released on its social media channels so they can check the measures in place before visiting.

Enhanced cleaning routines will also be established with team members cleaning all tables, slot machines and other touchpoints regularly throughout the day. 

Once at reception, you’ll be greeted by a member of staff who will guide you to follow one-way signs on floors that will take you through the book sales area to the bingo hall, where there will also be a bar area open.

Signs will guide you to separate exits when you come to leave.

Jonathon Swaine, managing director of venues at Mecca told us the brand has studied the floor plans of each club to ensure there’s enough space between seats for people to maintain a safe social distance.

You’ll notice stickers showing which seats you can and can’t sit at to maintain a social distance, although Mr Swaine stresses the chain’s large venues means this shouldn’t be too difficult.

You’ll be able to sit with people from your household or social bubble.

The government’s guidelines in England are for people to keep at least 2metres apart, although 1metre is acceptable from July 4 if the former can’t be achieved.

Once at your table you can use Mecca’s usual Max tablets to play your favourite games and to order food and drink directly to your table.

There will be a reduced food menu in place for now, although you’ll be able to order all of the same drinks as usual – see the box below for the full list of items.

Food and drink can also be ordered via the app, while Mecca is launching a pre-booking service in July, which will allow customers to secure their space to play, as well as pre-order food and drinks before they even arrive.

You can still order at the bar, where perspex screens will be in place, but Mecca encourages using contactless means where possible.

Cash will continue to be accepted but Mecca Bingo says it has increased its acceptance of contactless cards.

There’s a shake-up to games too with new “Mecca Cares” sessions that will limit the number of people allowed to play.

These limits will vary by venue but Mecca explains this may appeal to vulnerable or older customers in a similar way to these groups having their own hour to shop in supermarkets. You’ll also get a free coffee at these sessions.

The chain is also increasing the number of times it hosts its popular “Popingo” game to every hour. It says this will also enable more people to pop in for a shorter time period, and it costs from £2.50 a pop to play.

Longer opening hours also means new entertainment, including a regular quiz night.

If you need need a comfort break on your visit, you’ll notice every other cubicle is out of use to ensure social distancing, while signs indicate how to wash hands thoroughly.

Mecca Bingo’s area manager, Natalie Holland, says the gaming giant has called around 11,000 regular customers during lockdown who all say they miss the clubs.

Mr Swaine added: “What we are hearing from our customers is that they’ve missed bingo and they want to come back.

“We have put in place a number of measures that will ensure your experience first of all is incredibly safe and second of all is the same fun experience that you’ve missed over the past 14 weeks.”

And it’s not just reopening clubs that Mecca has been busy working on; it’s also dished out more than 50,000 free meals throughout the crisis in partnership with 29 local charities.

In related news, we’ve been behind the scenes at Greene King pubs and at Odeon cinemas, which are both set to start reopening this weekend.

We also took a look at what shops would look like before they reopened on June 15.

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