Since my last article was published, things have moved on rapidly and we have of course had the introduction of new regulations under the Public Health (Controls of Diseases) Act 1984 which prohibit businesses operating throughout the relevant period until terminated by the Secretary of State for Health. They expire completely at the end of a six-month period from the date of the regulations, which was effectively last Saturday 21 March 2020.
There are many classes of premises which should close under the new regulations and many have operated their premises under a premises licence in order to provide the relevant activities in those premises but in essence they are all premises where people are likely to meet and assemble.
Accordingly, all restaurants (including dining rooms in hotels and members clubs), cafes and bars (including bars in hotels and members clubs) and pubs must close. If such premises have sold food and drink for consumption off the premises, then they will be exempted from the requirement to close only insofar as they provide the takeaway service. Their bars and restaurants for consumption internally will still need to close.
The Government is also considering a change to the planning rules to allow public houses and restaurants with an A3 permission (i.e. restaurant use) to add a class A4 use (takeaway) so that premises which do not have such a permission can now benefit from such use and not become the focus of enforcement action by the local planning authority.
I understand that the Government may be considering a blanket change to premises licences under the Licensing Act 2003 to allow the introduction of off-sales of alcohol for a limited period of time and to allow takeaway of hot food where there are currently licensing conditions which prohibit it.
The second part of the schedule to the new regulations sets out 11 classes of premises which must also close to the public and these are as follows:
- Bingo halls
- Concert halls
- Museums and galleries
- Betting shops
- Massage parlours
- Indoor skating rinks
- Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres
All of the provisions of the regulations will be enforced by police or designated officers of the local authorities with unlimited fines for opening in contravention of the regulations following a prosecution.
To an extent much of this has been superseded by the Government lockdown on the general public in any event but operators of such premises who attempt to stay open in this period could face heavy fines and perhaps sanctions under the Licensing Act 2003 where they hold a premises licence.
There are some exceptions to the above categories but they are limited and I am happy to discuss the impact of these regulations with any operator who may be confused. The drafting of the regulations is not perfect but to an extent this must be put down to the requirement of alacrity given the developing situation and the escalation of numbers now acquiring the disease and very sadly dying from it.
If you require further guidance for your business, please contact Gareth via the below details.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.