Enforcement powers under the coronavirus regulations

Guide for leisure, food and drink businesses

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Whilst a lot of the focus over the last week has been around what does and does not constitute a “substantial meal” and whether or not this might amount to a scotch egg what has received less publicity is the enhanced enforcement powers local authorities in England now have since the introduction of the Tier regulations on the 2 December.

The three new powers are

  • Coronavirus Improvement Notice (CIN)
  • Coronavirus Restriction Notice (CRN)
  • Coronavirus Immediate Restriction Notice (CIRN)

These powers will remain in force until 2 June 2021

Expand the boxes below to find out more about each of these. 

This should be the first step that local authorities take to encourage a business to remedy an unsafe practice

A CIN will set out the breach of the coronavirus regulations and the time that the operator has to remedy the breach which must be at least 48 hours, although the time will be at the discretion of the local authority

The notice can include suggestions as to how the breach can be remedied

The relevant licensing officer will inspect the premises at the end of the stated time (if you comply within the stated CIN you can request the officer to inspect prior to this). If the breach has been remedied to the satisfaction of the office there will be no further action to take.

If the breach has not been remedied then this could lead to:

  • A Fixed penalty notice of £2,000
  • Service of a CRN
  • Service of a CIRN

A CRN will be issued where there has been non compliance with a CIN, and the non compliance involves a risk of exposure to coronavirus.

A CRN can result in a premises being shut for  a period of up to 7 days. If during the 7 day period the operator believes that they have complied with the CRN they can request that the enforcement officer re-inspects the premises to check compliance. Where this request is made the officer must review the notice within 48 hours of at the end of the 7 day period, whichever is earlier.

Non compliance can result in a further CRN being issued, or the service of a CIRN or CIN

Non compliance with a CRN will also result in a FPN of £4,000 being issued.

A CIRN can be issued where the enforcement officer believes that immediate and rapid action is required to there has been a breach of coronavirus regulations and that the contravention wil continue or be repeated.

The CIRN will result in the premises being closed for a period of 48 hours. If the operator believes that they have remedied the breach within the 48 hour period they can ask that the officer respect to the premises to check compliance.

If at the end of the 48 hour period the breach has not been remedied a further CIRN can be issued or the officer can issue a CRN (see below) which will result in the premises being closed for a further period of up to 7 days.

Failure to comply with a CIRN will result in a FPN of £4,000 being issued.

Appeal

You have a right of appeal against the service of  CIN, CIRN and a CRN, although service of the appeal does not suspend the effect of the notice.

A successful appeal may result in compensation being paid.

Obligations to which these powers apply

There is a wide range of obligations, the breach of which could result in the service of a CIN, CIRN and a CRN. These include (but are NOT limited to)

  • Keeping appropriate distances between tables
  • Ensuring that orders for food or drink for consumption on the premises are not accepted between 10pm and 11pm
  • Closing businesses providing alcohol for consumption on the premises without a table meal (Tier 2)
  • Display a NHS QR code

We have yet to hear of any local authorities who have decided to flex their muscles using these new powers and it is hoped that the 4 “E”’s approach will be adopted by enforcing officers (engage, explain, encourage, enforce) before any decision is taken to do so.

Where notices are served immediate action is vital to ensure and avoid a closure of premises (in the event of a CIN being served) and fixed penalty notices being imposed.


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