How can hospitality businesses prepare to reopen? - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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How can hospitality businesses prepare to reopen?

How can hospitality businesses prepare to reopen?

11th May 2020 - Published by Kuits licensing team

Following Boris Johnson’s address to the nation yesterday, the Government has this afternoon published its anticipated 50-page guidance document entitled “Our plan to rebuild”.

Whilst by no means detailed from a hospitality perspective, it does give indications of the circumstances in which leisure and hospitality businesses might be able to recommence operations in the foreseeable future.

The reopening of certain hospitality businesses will come at “Step 3” of the Government’s plan, which will commence on the July 4. The guidance specifies that the current planning assumption is that this step will be no earlier than this date. However, it could of course be later should this be deemed necessary. Indeed, it is repeated throughout the guidance that these steps represent an ‘indicative roadmap’ and that the “precise timetable for these adjustments will depend on the infection risk at each point and the effectiveness of the Governments mitigation measures like contact tracing”.

Further scientific advice at the time will specify how far this reopening can go. Businesses that do reopen will need to meet the “Covid 19 Secure Guidelines”, but these have yet to be published. Sight of these may provide a further indication of the specific sorts of measures that businesses will need to have in place in order to reopen, but will inevitably include implementation of social distancing measures.

For many hospitality businesses, opening with social distancing measures in place simply will not be practicable or desirable, and indeed some may be forced to, or prefer to, remain closed. Indeed, the guidance states that “reopening… premises whose core purpose is social interaction (such as nightclubs)… may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections” and that “some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part”.

Kuits will issue further comment on how preparations might take shape once the COVID-19 Secure Guidelines have been published.

Utilising outdoor space moving forward

Elsewhere in the guidance, in relation to outdoor exercise, is some food for thought for operators. The Guidance states that “the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower”.

Use of outside space is likely to assist hospitality operators in complying with social distancing measures, simply by providing them with additional space; and in providing customers with an environment in which they will feel comfortable as they make tentative steps back through the doors.

Operators with existing Highways Act licences should take steps to ensure that they are preserved, as these could become invaluable in due course. While it may be tempting to allow a licence to lapse to avoid payment of fees at a time when cash flow is a significant concern, this could be counterproductive if it means that a licence is not in place once reopening is permitted.

Operators with available outside space that is not currently utilised for customers may wish to consider how they can bring these areas into operation. If these areas are a public highway, a Highways Act licence will be required, and operators should start to consider applying for such licences now as consultation periods in respect of these applications will last at least 28 days.

Operators could also use this time to explore, perhaps in collaboration with others in close proximity to them, whether there is scope for more comprehensive changes to their areas to allow for more outside space. Is there, for example, scope to seek the pedestrianisation of certain streets at certain times to allow all operators on that street a significant increase in outside space?

Finally, operators who sell alcohol should also consider reviewing their licences and checking permissions for off sales, if they intend to allow customers to drink outside. They should also do so if they intend to supplement any reopening for on trade with the offer of takeaway or delivery services.

To speak to a licensing expert about any of the above, including acquiring a a Highways Act licence, please contact Rebecca Ingram on 0161 838 8161 or email rebeccaingram@kuits.com.

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