In their article for the April 2020 edition of Pub & Bar magazine entitled “Coronavirus Report for Pubs and Bars” (that has been published today 6 April 2020), David Clifton and Suzanne Davies have updated their “Coronavirus legal guidance – the do’s and don’ts” article published online by Pub & Bar on 16 March 2020.
Their article published today (that you can download below):
- analyses the effect of government restrictions on, and economic support for, the pub and bar sector arising from the coronavirus crisis and
- represents the position as it stood on 24 March 2020 when the article was written.
Inevitably the fast-moving developments since that date mean that certain matters affecting the sector have moved on further.
One such development – quite separate from last month’s relaxation of planning rules allowing pubs to operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak – has been the conversion of some pubs to grocery stores, which raises licensing related issues in the event that off-sales of alcohol are to take place, including the following:
- Premises licence conditions should be checked to establish (1) whether off-sales of alcohol are permitted and (2) the hours during which (a) alcohol may be sold and, if applicable, (b) the premises may be open to the public;
- Is the current Designated Premises Supervisor furloughed, necessitating the need to apply to change the DPS?
- Is any change to the layout of the premises being made that would necessitate a variation application being made to the licensing authority?
You can read about other further relevant developments since 24 March on our following webpages:
- 24.03.20: Updates section: Coronavirus Bill and loan scheme consequences for hospitality, leisure and gambling businesses
- 25.03.20: Coronavirus Act 2020 granted Royal Assent
- 29.03.20: Wrongful trading provisions within Insolvency Act 1986 to be relaxed to protect companies hit by COVID-19
- 30.03.20: PPL PRS suspends payment charges for TheMusicLicence during COVID-19 closure period
- 03.04.20: IoL protocol for licence applications & hearings during COVID-19 pandemic
You can also download below:
- an updated (6 April 2020) version of the government’s guidance entitled “COVID-19: Support for Businesses” and
- an extract from the newly launched HM Government Coronavirus Business Support website, entitled Business Support FAQs
Resulting in updates to our above-mentioned website posting entitled “IoL protocol for licence applications & hearings during COVID-19 pandemic“, the Institute of Licensing has reported that:
Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Crime and Policing has written to local authority Licensing Committee Chairs across England and Wales recognising the difficulties faced by regulators and businesses and urging a collaborative and pragmatic approach to minimise damage to both businesses and the licensing objectives.
The letter recognises the enormous disruption to businesses, public services and individuals across the country. It urges local authorities faced with potential staffing issues as a result of redeployment and illness, and with the additional challenges of working remotely to keep the licensing system operational through remote licensing hearings, and temporary measures to address concerns around advertising of applications through consultation with local ward councillors, resident groups where established and through online advertising on council websites.
On the question of premises licence fees, the letter points out that local authorities have discretion when considering non-payment or late payment of annual fees, and that while section 55A of the Licensing Act 2003 requires suspension of licences, licensing authorities can delay any suspensions where businesses are experiencing difficulties as a direct result of COVID-19.
Finally, the letter reminds local authorities that a considered and pragmatic approach should be taken to breaches of licence conditions and procedural defects caused by the pandemic, particularly where such breaches or defects do not have a significant adverse effect on the licensing objectives.
UKHospitality has welcomed the above recommendation of additional flexibility for licensees affected by COVID-19, stating as follows:
The Home Office has today written to local authorities recommending flexibility when safeguarding the licensing objectives. The letter recommends a “considered and pragmatic approach should be taken to breaches of licence conditions and procedural defects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly where these breaches or defects do not have a significant adverse impact on the licensing objectives”.
Importantly, the letter also states that where businesses are experiencing difficulties in paying premises licence fees and late night levy charges, “the authority should consider delaying any suspension of the licence where the delay in payment or non-payment is related to COVID-19” where business make the authority aware of their situation. UKHospitality urges all authorities to take this approach to fee payments during this period.
UKHospitality had been in close discussions with the Home Office recommending a more adaptable approach to working with licensees currently affected by the coronavirus.
Councils have also been advised that they should consider allowing deliveries outside of normal times, flexibility on advertising applications, and the use of remote hearings.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said:
“This additional flexibility for licensees is some welcome positive news at a moment when any good news is needed. The Government has shown a great deal of common sense in advising local authorities to act more pragmatically and flexibly during the outbreak. Hospitality businesses are currently under a huge amount of strain. The majority have no revenue whatsoever at the minute, and those that are operating in some capacity are working hard to support the needs of their communities and key workers. Pursuing a tactic of “business as usual” would have only heaped more pressure on businesses and stretched council resources even further. This scope for greater flexibility while the crisis is still in full swing is exactly the kind of lateral approach to business support we need.”