Will the Hospitality Trade Die because of Covid-19?


30 April 2020

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

The Media is saturated with Articles about the virus and its impact upon, our jobs, our businesses and the economy.

With no future dates to work towards for an end to this Pandemic, life is becoming increasingly bleak for some and maintaining a livelihood is something most are being kept awake by at night. People have worked hard to start their own businesses and struggled through all sorts of things that tested them along the way, but the Pandemic was something that most business owners never thought would ever occur.

As a result of the decision to increase the length of lockdown and the media reporting that Pubs/ Restaurants and those in hospitality may not reopen until Christmas and the possibility of considering the sale of consumables off site may need to be revisited.

Those considering this option for their business MUST look at their licence.

The current plans to relax and allow the takeaway service doesn’t cover those who don’t have ‘off sales’ authorised on the Premises Licence. Some Licences prevent this sort of activity and therefore you need to check that you have authority to operate in this way at all. You may also need to check the conditions of any Lease that you are a party to. Such authority, regarding the Licence, would need to be obtained from your local council or an application to vary the conditions of your licence.

This then leads to other questions that you are going to have to consider.

If you are supplying local pub grub to your community does your licence cover late night refreshment which is required for hot food and drink sales between 11pm – 5am.

How are you going to check that those using the service are old enough to use it? This, unfortunately, is a time when your measures to keep your business going and supply jobs to your staff can be abused. You must be vigilant to verify the age of your customer. It would be appropriate to consider this at the time any order is placed and checking the age of that person upon delivery.

As far as a delivery service is concerned, do you need to consider how your orders can or will be taken? Telephone orders, Prepayment and online are the preferred method for most during this time and most are not accepting cash on delivery. Which leads to other considerations if you do not have a Prepay facility.

You will need to consider how will you keep your staff safe, you need to avoid the risk of contracting the virus or passing it to others, are you going to supply hand sanitiser and is the delivery going to be contactless? Thought concerning the safety of staff needs to be applied to other areas.  What if your delivery uses a car that has never needed to be insured for business purposes or your staff are robbed of the alcohol and/or cash.

If you can stay open due to the fact that you are an essential operation can you ensure social distancing or an appropriate queueing system. If you work alone can you really control the flow of people in and out of the business to ensure you comply with the regulations?

Another frequent question is the use of space outside a premises.

Food and Drink cannot be consumed inside the premises and therefore it must be made clear that outside spaces are not available. Beer gardens should not be used but provisions should be made to prevent your customer from sitting or gathering in areas that may frequently be used to sit and socialise, for example a public seating area close to or opposite your premises.

There are many publications showing how many businesses have adapted and had to adapt because the rent still needs to be paid and the stock shouldn’t go to waste. The businesses who have adjusted, using their licences to sell alcohol off the premises and offering takeaway services, have been greatly received by their local communities. However, we appreciate that this is hard work and often done for little or no profit in the hope that one day those customers will return to the bar/tables and remember what that little pub or restaurant did for them during lockdown.

Fortunately, licensing hearings have become virtual so that this work isn’t delayed or adjourned during lockdown. Licence fees have been relaxed, conditions of a licence are to be dealt with in a pragmatic way by the local authority and certain applications are to be dealt with as a priority. The Regulators are evolving too. Licences are still being granted during this strange time and a small minority of businesses are still going ahead with their applications, wanting to throw their doors open, as soon as this all ends.

The Hospitality sector was the first to close and will be the last to open. It has been reported that if pubs re-open customers will be limited to 3 pints, or we may have to abide by a maximum number of people rule and somehow businesses will have to manage social distancing. For most that is a logistical nightmare. So will the Hospitality Sector die from Covid? Unfortunately, some businesses will.

Hard work, blood, sweat and tears will become a victim to the Pandemic. Some will continue by the skin of their teeth and hold on as doors open and the second wave of panic is thrown at us – the Economy.

There are many hurdles to jump, but they are hurdles that can be jumped and sometimes that requires some creativity or advice on how that can be achieved. Should you need any advice regarding the impact of Covid 19 on the effect of your business then we hope to offer you proactive and empathetic advice to keep your business moving forward.

For more information on Licensing and your business

Contact us here or phone on 01206 369889

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.