UK governments outline licensing requirements as hospitality sector reopens

Out-Law News | 29 Jun 2020 | 3:36 pm | 1 min. read

The UK and Scottish governments have released updated guidance for the hospitality sector on the requirements restaurants, pubs and bars need to follow to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown.

The guidance for England and Wales (43 page / 3.9MB PDF) updates earlier rules and sets out the risk assessments businesses should carry out in order to operate from 4 July, when venues can start to serve customers indoors subject to restrictions.

According to the guidance, venues should consider lowering their capacity to make sure customers are abiding by social distancing guidelines and the ban on gathering in groups of more than 30 people. Staggering entry times with neighbouring venues is recommended.

Local authorities have been advised to avoid issuing licences for events that could lead to “large gatherings” forming, and the government noted it has powers to close venues or prohibit certain events.

The guidance recommends ways to minimise contact between customers and staff, and encourages the use of online apps for ordering food and drink, and using outdoor areas where possible.

Licensing expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said the hospitality industry would “no doubt” be pleased with the announcement, even though not all operators may be able to open.

“The measures will allow customers to now be seated inside premises once again as long as the relevant social distancing measures are in place. It is interesting to note that certain forms of entertainment are allowed, such as the playing of recorded music, however the guidance clearly states that there are to be no live performances of entertainment,” Rees-Gay said.

“Every operator must ensure that they conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine what actions should be taken. It will be extremely interesting to see how the industry adapts to these new constraints,” Rees-Gay said.

The Scottish government has also published guidance (8 page / 85KB PDF) for tourism and hospitality businesses, which applies to the whole sector. Like the English and Welsh guidance, businesses are expected to carry out a thorough risk assessment before opening and to engage constructively with employees.

The operational guidance and accompanying checklist covers topics such as supply chain management, signage and markings, queue management, capacity, cleaning and hygiene and adapting services, but the Scottish government said guidance on toilets would be published separately.

Although the Scottish guidance divides businesses by the size of premise they operate out of, there is little difference in the requirements.

Licensing expert Audrey Ferrie of Pinsent Masons said: “The Scottish government expects licensing boards to be supportive of the licensed trade, to consider applications on their individual merits, sensitively, and with no unnecessary hurdles on the one hand but on the other to be mindful of the licensing objectives."