COVID-19 – New Restrictions on food and drink businesses
As anticipated businesses such as public houses, cafés, restaurants or other relevant businesses (ones that provide food or drink for consumption on its premises) are from Friday 18 September 2020 subject to new laws (and penalties) as part of the Government’s strategy to tackle the pandemic.
These dovetail with the Rule of Six provisions introduced a few days ago.
The person responsible for such businesses must take all reasonable measures to ensure that the following are observed:
- no bookings for a table are accepted for a group of more than six persons unless any existing exemptions to gatherings apply
- no persons are admitted to the premises in a group of more than six – again unless one of the exemptions to gatherings apply
- no person in one qualifying group mingles with any person in another qualifying group unless permitted e.g. linked households.
In addition, they must ensure that appropriate distance is maintained between tables occupied by different ‘qualifying groups’.
An ‘appropriate distance’ means a distance between tables of:
1. at least two metres, or
2. at least one metre, if:
- there are barriers or screens between tables
- the tables are arranged with back to back seating, or otherwise arranged to ensure that persons sitting at one table do not face any person sitting at another table at a distance of fewer than two metres
- other measures are taken to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus between people sitting at different tables.
Offences and reasonable excuse
An offence is committed if ‘without reasonable excuse’ any of the regulations relating to booking, admitting customers, mingling and distancing are not complied with. How a business will tackle any of this remains to be seen. Offences can be committed by individual business owners, business partners, limited companies and company officers (including managers, secretaries or other officers.)
As the ‘person responsible for carrying on the business’ has the legal obligation to obey the rules staff who do not run the business seemingly cannot be personally pursued.
There can be an unspecified court fine or a fixed penalty fixed at £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days). In keeping with the other regulations, the fixed penalties are doubled for each subsequent offence, here to a maximum of £4,000.
Of course, premises licensed by local authorities will need to be careful they do not transgress as this may adversely affect their premises licence.
We Can Help You
We will continue to keep you updated in this ever-changing landscape.
Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any regulatory or road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Regulatory and Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.
For all of our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice, please visit http://www.ashtonslegal.co.uk/coronavirus/
Source: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations of Hospitality Undertakings) (England) Regulations 2020. Made at 2.44 p.m. on 17th September 2020 Laid before Parliament at 4.45 p.m. on 17th September 2020 Coming into force – 18th September 2020
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