The COVID-19 restrictions – an update for licensed premises
New regulations came in to force last Saturday, which will be laid before Parliament today (23rd March 2020), which will affect the operation of licensed premises with on sales. The regulations provide for a criminal sanction (unlimited fine) and enforcement powers to ensure the closure of bars, pubs, restaurants providing food or drink for consumption on the premises amongst other public entertainment places as a result of the risk to public health arising from Coronavirus. Exclusions to these regulations currently include food and drink take-aways.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/327) were made at 2pm on 21st March 2020, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and come into force immediately. In recognition of the exceptionality of the situation, the Regulations have yet to be laid before Parliament (as permitted by s.45 of the Act). That will happen on Monday 23rd March 2020.
The Regulations are the means by which the Government gives effect to the Prime Minister’s statement in a press conference on 20th March 2020 that “We are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow.”
The Regulations will expire completely at the end of 6 months from last Saturday (although this expiry does not affect the validity of anything done before then) and are to be reviewed by the Secretary of State every 28 days and may therefore be subject to change.
There are two categories of premises set out in a schedule.
Part 1 Businesses
Part 1 consists of what might be described as (but is not defined as licensed trade), so:
1. Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs.
2. Cafes, including workplace canteens, but not including—
(a) cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;
(b) canteens at a prison or an establishment intended for use for naval, military or air force purposes or for the purposes of the Department of the Secretary of State responsible for defence;
(c) services providing food or drink to the homeless.
3. Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.
4. Public houses.
By regulation 2(1), a person who is responsible for carrying on a business listed in Part 1 of the Schedule must:
(a) during the relevant period—
(i) close any premises, or part of the premises, in which food or drink are sold for consumption on those premises, and
(ii) cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises; or
(b) if the business sells food or drink for consumption off the premises, cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises during the relevant period.
Part 2 Businesses
A person responsible for carrying on a business which is listed in Part 2 of the Schedule must cease to carry on that business during the relevant period: Regulation 2(4).
There are 11 categories of Part 2 Premises, all within the leisure sector, namely:
8. Bingo halls.
9. Concert halls.
10. Museums and galleries.
12. Betting shops.
14. Massage parlours.
15. Indoor skating rinks.
16. Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.
If premises fail to comply then a person carrying on the business (which can include the owner, proprietor, manager, and in relation to a corporate body a director, secretary or other similar officer) may face prosecution and a fine.
Please note that the Regulations at the time of writing do not include food or drink sold by a hotel (or other accommodation provision) as part of room service.
Enforcement will be by way of local authority officers and Police officers and any breach of the regulations may result in prohibition notices and potentially unlimited fines; possibly even loss of premises licence.
People can continue to enter premises to access takeaway service, including delivery drivers (but please check the terms of your Premises Licence allow the sale of take-away food before selling the same between the hours of 11pm-5am; and before selling alcohol for take-away please ensure this is permitted by your Premises Licence). There are proposals to change planning regulations to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so but these proposals are not yet in effect at the time of writing.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for any advice and assistance. You may wish to consider a variation of your Premises Licence to add off-sales of alcohol or late night take-away food and deliveries if not already permitted.
The above is stated as at the 23rd March 2020 but is subject to change so please check for updates on the government website: www.gov.uk