The Met police wrote to a number of London venues on 16 October, suggesting they take steps such as “requesting photographic identification with names and addresses,” to enforce tier two restrictions.
Social mixing between different households indoors has been banned in the capital city, alongside major cities such as York, Sheffield and Birmingham.
The Met’s letter to operators states: “Premises should take steps to satisfy themselves that the group (maximum six people) is only from one household or part of a support bubble. This could include requesting photographic identification with names and addresses.”
Chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Michael Kill said the police's letter “confuses an already confused situation”.
Kill continued: “The conditions for trading are already extremely difficult and our entire sector have taken reasonable measures to ensure guidelines have been met and people are kept safe within their premises."
The NTIA has taken legal advice and will request the Met withdraw its “misleading and unlawful” advice.
“This is typical of erroneous advice and enforcement activity up and down the country,” Kill added.
The Met police later said the letter was simply advisory and did not reflect a legal expectation.
A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “The local advice from one of the Met’s licensing teams to licensees in their area regarding how they might ensure households do not mix on their premises was just that – advice. It was well-intentioned and we hope that it is taken in that way. It does not reflect the Met’s policy or any expectation from us upon London’s licensees.
"Our primary aim is to help keep all Londoners safe and ensure, through engagement and explanation, that the relevant Covid legislation is adhered to."
Impossible to ensure
Operators and trade associations have told The Morning Advertiser it is not fair for businesses to be asked to “ensure” customers are compliant by the Government.
“Businesses and venues must ensure people do not meet in their premises with people from outside of their household or support bubble,” Government guidance states.
Those failing to comply with coronavirus regulations can now face fines of up to £10,000 or being shut down.
Trevor Puddifoot, operator at the River Ale House in London, said of the Government's guidance: “You just can't ensure it, you can’t be 100% certain. You're looking at something which is absolutely impossible to achieve.
“You can’t ensure people who come in together don't come from the same household.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said pubs were actively ensuring safety measures were followed across all three tiers.
She added: “However, expecting pubs to demand all customers produce photographic identification with names and addresses would be fundamentally inappropriate and completely unacceptable.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said pub staff should “show due diligence” and not serve customers if it is suspected they are breaching rules.
“Ultimately, the customer is liable though,” she added. “Staff can only make customers aware of their responsibility. We do not want to overburden venue staff at a time when they are already stretched and under enormous pressure.”
The Morning Advertiser asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) how pubs were expected to ensure customers were following rules.
The Department did not suggest any particular steps like asking for ID and suggested pubs could call the police if customers acted unreasonably towards staff.
A Government spokesperson said: “The vast majority of businesses and individuals have and will act responsibly to control the spread of the virus. However, we have put regulations in place to support pubs, Local Authorities and police to enforce the rules. Individuals who do not comply can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.”