Q – My premises on the south coast of England has been closed for the majority of the Covid period as it is too small to reopen with all the restrictions that were in place. Now those restrictions have been lifted I am planning on reopening but I am confused with the Government guidance and whether I need to put any Covid measures in place?
A – Over the past 18 months, the guidance from the Government has changed drastically and it has been a challenge to keep up to speed with – for both operators and enforcement officers. From Monday 19 July, England entered Step 4 of the Covid roadmap, which lifted the restrictions previously placed on licensed premises.
The most recent guidance released by the Government is dated 14 July and this outlines the extent of what is now expected to reduce the spread of the virus. The most important point is to undertake a Covid health and safety risk assessment, which remains a legal requirement under health and safety law.
This is to ensure that all adequate measures are put in place to protect both customers and staff within your premises, such as providing adequate ventilation and hand sanitisation stations. This must be regularly kept up to date, and should be shared with staff.
There is no longer any legal requirement to collect contact details under NHS Test and Trace, for customers or staff to wear face masks, or for social distancing measures to be in place within your premises. You also do not need to provide table service and customers are allowed to return to the bar to order their drinks.
However, even though these restrictions have been lifted in law, the guidance encourages venues to continue to display the NHS Test and Trace QR code poster (or an alternative), and generally to continue with such measures that will reduce the spread of the virus, including providing adequate ventilation, cleaning more often, turning away people with Covid symptoms and training staff.
Q – I have just fully reopened my bar in London following the Covid restrictions, and I would like to begin to sell hot food during the evenings until I close at 1am. Can you let me know whether there are any restrictions?
A – In order to provide hot food after 11pm you will need permission to provide late night refreshment on your premises licence, as selling hot food between 11pm and 5am is a licensable activity. You should also check your premises licence to see whether there are any conditions restricting the sale of hot food and drinks.
If you do not have permission or there are conditions which need to be addressed, an application to vary your premises licence will be required under the Licensing Act 2003.
If you are simply adding late night refreshment to your licence, this can usually be done by way of a minor variation application. However, if you are adding in a kitchen or fixed seating or food service areas these may need to be shown on the licence's approved plan and again, may require a variation. Whether this is a full or minor variation will depend on the proposals and the attitude of your local authority.
If the food offer is something new, you will also need to register with your local authority as a food business.
You should also ensure that you have checked that you are complying with other relevant regulations such as planning, health and safety and food safety.