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Compliance in the face of adversity

By Graeme Cushion, partner, Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Compliance tips: staffing is just one of the current issues Poppleston Allen highlights as a challenge for the sector at the moment (image: Getty/sturti)
Compliance tips: staffing is just one of the current issues Poppleston Allen highlights as a challenge for the sector at the moment (image: Getty/sturti)

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With the pandemic now fading somewhat into the background, a whole new series of challenges seem to be making life as difficult as possible for operators.

My understanding is it is very difficult to secure staff right across the board and all the way from kitchen porters through to managers and indeed door staff. Then you add into the mix that supply chains remain disrupted and of course what you can get hold of is now costing significantly more than it did!

Despite the fact operators may be short-staffed – either because they cannot find the staff or because they are deploying as few as possible to offset rising costs – the system of compliance and enforcement is still in place and has not meaningfully changed. A greater degree of sympathy might be experienced from those who police the various regimes, but that can in no way be guaranteed.

Fresh look

In the world of licensing, it is imperative that operators take a fresh look at their premises licence and make sure they are still able to comply with all of the conditions thereupon. Authorities are still carrying out licensing inspections and their reaction to discovering an operator in breach of their conditions can be quite varied.

At one end of the spectrum, you may simply receive a warning letter, highlighting the areas of deficiency and seeking confirmation those have now been put right. However, in the worst-case scenario it is still entirely possible for those who are in a position to monitor compliance with the conditions to be prosecuted through the courts with the risk of significant fines and indeed a criminal record. This is equally true for individuals within the premises as well as corporate entities.

In addition to that, there is always the very real risk of review of the premises licence if the conditions are not being complied with.

Proactive rather than reactive

As usual with these sorts of issues, it is much better to be proactive than reactive. If you review the conditions on your licence and realise you are simply incapable of complying with some of them in the modern arena, then it is better to have conversations with the licensing authority or indeed police to determine whether they might be prepared to relax some of them to your benefit.

It is much better to do so when you have not already been found in breach of the very conditions that you would seek to remove or relax. At that point, you may well find yourselves on the back foot and having to once again increase staff and the management costs in order to secure future compliance with conditions that might otherwise have been capable of relaxation or removal.

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