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Yesterday pubs opened and the nation’s media, inc the Guardian, Express & i News, turned to our licensing experts for comment

We helped interpret the latest Government guidelines, providing much-needed clarity for licensees and customers alike

Licensing partner Andy Grimsey recently gave the national and regional news media a comprehensive Q&A on the legal issues for the easing of Covid 19 lockdown rules at pubs and restaurants in England.

This was published across 37 news outlets, including:

Here is the article in full:

Solicitors Poppleston Allen, who specialise in leisure licensing, have provided a comprehensive Q&A of the legal issues surrounding the easing of lockdown rules at pubs and restaurants in England.

It addresses questions that customers and staff may have, namely:

Q: Under what circumstances and how many times under those circumstances can I leave my table and go inside a pub or restaurant?

A: If alcohol is being served on the premises, you are advised to generally remain seated, but may leave your seat to use toilets or for breast-feeding or to use baby-changing facilities where appropriate.

Q: Do I have to order a substantial meal, or any food, with a drink?

A: No. Unlike the last time in which pubs were open, there is no legal requirement to order any kind of food alongside your drink in order to be served in a premises.

Q: What is the official definition of ‘outside space’? How are gazebos, marquees and other temporary structures classified?

A: There is no official legal definition of ‘outside space’, rather, ‘indoors’ is the term given, as defined by any space where the smoking ban applies. If you wouldn’t be allowed to smoke in this part of the premises, you can’t legally sit there and drink during Step 2.

Generally, any structure which has a roof – and ignoring doors and windows has 50% or less of the sides open – counts as indoors.

Q: Do I still have to maintain a social distance from other guests and/or my party at all times?

A: Not where you are in an exempt category, for example the same household or group of six friends, but social distancing generally should be maintained between different tables/groups (2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable)

Q: Can I visit the pub/a restaurant with people from outside my household and what rules apply in those circumstances?

A: Yes, in groups of no more than six, or with another household, and outdoors only.

Q: How will last orders work and when do I have to leave? For publicans, when should customers have left the premises by?

A: Last orders are dictated by the licence-holder in accordance with the times permitted on their alcohol premises licence. There is no general curfew as with previous restrictions.

Q: Can pubs offer any kind of entertainment – if so what is permitted? (karaoke, quizzes, live music etc)

A: Government Guidance states: “For many restaurants, pubs and bars, providing entertainment such as recorded music, live sports broadcasts, quizzes, live musicians or comedians are an important part of their business.”

Steps that will usually need to be taken in advance of offering entertainment:

Determining the viability of entertainment and maximum audience numbers consistent with social distancing outside and within venues and other safety considerations.

Preventing entertainment, such as broadcasts, that is likely to encourage audience behaviours increasing transmission risk. For example, loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting.

Q: If so can I leave my seat/seated position to dance/participate in entertainment.

A: Government guidance states that venues should lower music and other background noise and prevent shouting, singing and dancing in the venue by making sure music and broadcasts are played at a low volume.

Q: Can pubs show live sport outside? If so, can I leave my seat to celebrate a goal/is chanting or singing permitted?

A: Yes, pubs can show live sport outside, subject to following Government guidance which would not permit leaving a seat to celebrate a goal or engaging in group singing or chanting, ie behaviours that increase transmission risk.

Q: Can I play a fruit machine, quiz machine, darts, pool or participate in any other form of non-seated entertainment – inside or outside?

A: You are not allowed to enter a pub for any reason apart from payment, to use the toilets and baby-changing etc. Outside it would be possible to play darts or pool subject to a COVID risk assessment, for example cleaning cues, darts etc.

Q: What are the rules surrounding ‘takeaway pints’ and can I take my drink with me when leaving a licenced premise? Do the same rules apply for customers drinking ‘takeaway pints’ as for seated customers or are there any key differences.

A:There is no national prohibition on takeaway pints. Generally ‘off-sales’ are permitted but it is critical that such drinks are taken away from the premises and not consumed in an ‘adjacent’ area, which under the rules could be treated as part of the premises and therefore requiring table service.

Q: Can venues still ask for proof of vaccination – if they do, what are my rights?

A: Venues are permitted to refuse entry on whatever grounds they wish, provided this is not discriminatory under Equality legislation (for example due to sex, race, religion, disability etc)

Q: As a licensee or staff member, can I still ask customers for proof of vaccination, a temperature check or any other proof that they do not have Covid-19 – or is this illegal?

A: Yes, see above.

Q: What are the legal requirements for licensees and customers for Test and Trace?

A: All customers will have to provide details either through the app or directly to the premises. Venues have to display the official NHS QR poster as well.

Q: What are the legal requirements for providing addresses/proving that customers are from the same household.

A: See above – venues must take reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to provide contact details.

Q: Can I have a business meeting/working lunch inside a pub or restaurant?

A: No

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