Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, wrote to Councils in England on 2 December 2020, setting out how they should implement the Government’s recently announced relaxation of retail trading hours in the run-up to Christmas and throughout January 2021.

The announcement, which will provide a much-welcome boost to Christmas retailing, encourages Councils to take a proactive approach to supporting shops to re-open safely.

Mr Jenrick’s letter to Council Chief Executives makes it clear that local planning controls should not be used as a barrier to extended retail opening hours. The announcement, which will permit extended opening hours on Monday to Saturday, will allow shops to maintain a safe shopping experience and give customers flexibility to decide when they shop.

Essentially Councils are being told by the Government to ignore any local planning conditions or restrictions during this period, to keep the public safe when shopping. The announcement does not authorise extended trading on Sundays, where restrictions continue to apply, and only applies to Councils in England.

Retailers selling alcohol should be aware that, whilst extended trading hours might be permitted, there is no similar relaxation in relation to licensing hours. This means that retailers must only sell alcohol during the times permitted on the relevant Premises Licence. This could cause complications where a shop remains open but does not have authorisation to sell alcohol during the extended opening hours. Stores must be very careful to cordon off alcohol aisles outside of permitted hours or at the very least, ensure that staff are aware that alcohol sales are restricted during this period. In some cases, it will be possible to disable till EPOS systems to restrict alcohol sales outside permitted hours and many retailers will already have to deal with these issues, due to a mismatch between their permitted opening hours and their alcohol licensing hours.

Retailers still have just enough time to submit Temporary Event Notice (TEN) applications to cover extended times for alcohol sales in the run-up to the busy Christmas week. Submitting a TEN for the extended opening hours would allow alcohol to be sold whenever the store is open to trade during this period. A TEN can cover a period of up to 7 days. Late TENs require a minimum of 5 clear working days’ notice, whilst normal TENs require a minimum of 10 clear working days’ notice. Retailers need to bear in mind that TENS are not automatic and can be refused if, for example, the police were to object on crime and disorder grounds.

Keystone’s licensing team is already busy submitting TENs this festive season, as retailers take advantage of these extended trading hours to maximise their sales. Retailers thinking of submitting TENs will needs to get up to speed with this urgently to ensure they have the correct licence to sell alcohol whenever they are open. Please contact Richard Williams or Niall McCann to discuss a TEN application in more detail.

The Government’s Press Release about the announcement can be found here.

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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.