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Regulations confirming closure of premises now mandatory

In light of the government announcement on Friday 20 March regulations came in to force on Saturday 21 March at 2pm making it illegal for certain premises to remain open, other than for takeaways.

There is also a requirement for a long list of other types of premises to close. The list of premises affected is wider than had originally been anticipated.

At the present time the regulations only apply in England and Wales.

A summary of the regulations, in so far as they apply, is set out below:

Premises affected

The following premises must close and cease selling food or drink for consumption on their premises:

  1. Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs.
  2. Cafes, including workplace canteens
  3. Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.
  4. Public houses

In addition to the above, the following premises must close

  1. Cinemas
  2. Theatres
  3. Nightclubs
  4. Bingo halls
  5. Concert halls
  6. Museums and galleries
  7. Casinos
  8. Betting shops
  9. Spas
  10. Massage parlours
  11. Indoor skating rinks
  12. Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.

Exceptions

There are a very limited number of exceptions as follows:

  1. Cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;
  2. 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;
  3. Services providing food or drink to the homeless

Hotels and other accommodation premises

Food or drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation as part of room service is NOT to be treated as being sold for consumption ON its premises and may continue.

Outside seating areas

You cannot circumvent the regulations by selling food and drink for consumption off the premises and permit customers to use an outside seating area whether or not this seating is provided by you.

Any outside seating area adjacent to premises where seating is made available for customers of your business (whether or not that seating is provided by you) is to be treated as part of your premises and consumption of food and drink provided by you in these areas will amount to an offence under the regulations.

Offences and penalties

Any person who breaches of the regulations may be prosecuted, and on conviction, subject to an unlimited fine.

Persons responsible for carrying on a business include:

  • The owner
  • The proprietor
  • Manager of the business

Where the offence is committed by a corporate entity any officer of the business may be prosecuted if it can be proved that the offence has been committed with

  • The consent or connivance of an officer of the company
  • Due to the neglect on the part of the office of the company

Duration of the regulations

The regulations will expire on the 20 September 2020. Where the Secretary of State is of the view that these regulations are no longer necessary for the protection of public health then an order can be issued terminating the effect of the regulations.

There is also an obligation on the Secretary of State to review these regulations every 28 days. The first review will be on the 18 April 2020.

Steps you should take

It goes without saying that any of the premises listed above must close and cease selling food and drink for consumption on the premises until further notice. Off sales of alcohol where your licence permits, and off sales of food and non-alcoholic drinks, are still lawful.

Where you are the owner or proprietor of a business but do not have day to day control of the business you must ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken by you to ensure not only that the business is closed but that it remains closed until further notice. This is something that should be kept under review

If you have an outside seating area adjacent to your premises, tables and chairs must be removed immediately.

Where there is seating adjacent to your premises that is not provided by you, you should take steps to ensure that your customers do not congregates to eat or drink anything provide by you in this area.

A simple notice to this effect outside your premises, and an instruction to staff to ensure that this happens would, in our view, be sufficient.

If you require any assistance in relation to the implementation of these regulations please do not hesitate to contact a member of the licensing team.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at March 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions

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