More rules are upon us! Once again the country has stopped in its tracks and scrambled to decipher the government’s latest attempt to tackle the pandemic. Unfortunately for many the leisure industry is taking the biggest hit in the new regulations.
A number of these new precautions are already in place in local lockdowns and are generally aimed at minimising the risk of transmission and infection. The official legislation was released overnight:
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020
“Restrictions on opening hours of businesses and services
4A.—(1) A person responsible for carrying on a restricted business or providing a restricted service (“P”) must not carry on that business or provide that service during the emergency period between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00, subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (4).
(2) Paragraph (1) does not prevent P selling food or drink for consumption off the premises between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00—
(a) by making deliveries in response to orders received—
(i) through a website, or otherwise by on-line communication;
(ii) by telephone, including orders by text message; or
(iii) by post; or
(b) to a purchaser who collects the food or drink in a vehicle, and to whom the food or drink is passed without the purchaser or any other person leaving the vehicle.”
What has changed in restaurants and bars?
The main changes for restaurants, pubs and bars are the 22:00 curfew, staff and customers wearing face coverings and mandatory table service.
The Guidance on face coverings states; ‘a face covering should cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably, fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face- be secured to the head with ties or ear loops, be made of material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton, ideally include 2 layers of fabric’. There is a debate at the moment as to whether a visor complies with this guidance as it is not fixed to the side of the face.
Customers may take off their face covering when eating and drinking, but must don them when using toilet facilities and on entering and leaving the restaurant. Staff in retail must also now wear face coverings. Those already exempt from face coverings will remain exempt.
The curfew kicks in at 22:00 sharp, not a call for last orders or a wind down but a closure at 22.00. Operators will need to think about how and when they begin to wind down in order to comply with this.
Many venues have launched table service phone apps which have thrived in the current conditions, these kinds of innovations to service will continue to help operators to comply with conditions and maintain their business. It is worth noting that the strict table service rules only apply to venues serving alcohol. For those who aren’t, they must still take “all reasonable steps to ensure that the customer remains seated whilst consuming the food or drink on the premises”.
Operators must also be clear on the Rule of 6 (more on this later), specifically not allowing bookings of more than 6, unless they are a ‘bubble’ or household, and not allowing mingling. The social distanced table layouts will need to remain in place.
The good news is delivery services may continue, providing they are delivery and not collection.
Who else does the curfew affect?
The curfew also affects businesses providing food or drink prepared on the premises for immediate consumption off the premises, social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, cinemas, theatres, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, bingo halls and concern halls
However, whilst all of the above are subject to the curfew, some are not required to provide table service as they are not in Part 1, Schedule 3 of the regulations. These are bowling alleys, cinemas, theatres, amusement arcades or other indoor leisure centres or facilities, funfairs (indoors or outdoors), theme parks and adventure parks and activities, bingo halls and concert halls.
There has been some additional guidance released on cinemas, theatres and concert halls, who can stay open after 10pm only if the performance started before 10pm and provided they do not serve food or drink after this time, however for the rest of the venues on this list it remains to be seen whether any additional guidance will be released.
There are some venues exempt from the curfew, including supermarkets, convenience stores, corner shops and newsagents, pharmacists and chemists, petrol stations, cafes or canteens (at a hospital, care home or school, prison) and services providing food or drink to the homeless.
What about hotels?
Hotel bars and restaurants are specifically included in the 22:00 curfew, however the hotels themselves should be able to continue to operate and may provide room service provided it is by delivery only. The regulations are not absolutely clear on this point but certainly if the hotel bed rooms are not included in the licensed area then the delivery of alcohol and food to a bedroom will be an off sale. It appears that the government has not considered the situation in which the licensed area is actually included within the red line of the licensed area but there is no mention of service to hotel rooms being prevented after 22:00. Hotels must close the bars and restaurants at 22:00 .
Track and Trace
Some slight changes to the national track and trace system thanks to the launch of the NHS Track and Trace app. Businesses will be required to display the official NHS QR code allowing customers an alternative to providing their contact details.
The Rule of 6
The exemptions to the Rule of 6 are being narrowed, with the only exemptions now being organised outdoor sport, organised indoor sport for disabled people, weddings (maximum of 15 people) and funerals.
Therefore all other gatherings, including eating in a restaurant, participating in indoor sports or going to a bowling alley, must now only be undertaken in groups of 6. There is still discussion ongoing as to whether this means only 6 people will be allowed in the venue at any one time, or whether several groups of 6 will be allowed into the venue (where social distancing allows for it).
Support groups are limited to 15 people.
What has changed for Taxis?
Whilst the likes of Uber had already implemented mandatory face coverings, this is now the case in all taxis and private hire vehicles.
When does this all kick in?
The majority of these measures take effect on 24 September 2020, and are threatening to last for the winter.
From 28 September even more of these measures are set to become law, and consequently a wider range of businesses in breach will be subject to fines, including:
- ensuring customers observe the rule of six, and appropriate social distancing through signage, layout, and managing customer entry.
- reminding customers to wear face coverings where mandated.
Employers will also be banned from requiring self-isolating employees to come to work.
We will keep you updated as matters progress…