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COVID 19

An overview for the licensed trade, and how we can help operators

Since day 1 of the first Lockdown in March we have been helping clients understand and comply with the avalanche of legislation and regulations imposed by Government.

The legal and trading landscape has been in a state of massive flux, regionally and nationally, punctuated with full lockdowns, local restrictions, ‘additional measures’ and differences between England, Wales and Scotland. Not only have these restrictions been severe, they are often complex, confusing, given at short notice, and sometimes inconsistent with official Government guidance and statements from Ministers. They also cannot be considered in isolation as there is overlap in many areas.

The government has laid over 287 Coronavirus-related Statutory Instruments (SIs) before the UK Parliament.

The first two Coronavirus-related SIs were laid on 28 January and 10 February 2020, respectively. The rest have been laid since 6 March, at an average rate since then of eight per week. Guidance can often be out of sync with regulations and this shows has fast-moving the legal landscape is.

Our specialist licensing solicitors have throughout this unprecedented crisis worked with trade bodies, specialist Counsel and other relevant organisations such as NEXSTART (which we were instrumental in setting up, and play an active role in) and the Local Government Association to try and make sense of the new rules and regulations so that our clients can continue to operate responsibly and within the law.

As solicitors who act solely for the hospitality industry, we share your pain. Poppleston Allen was created 26 years ago as a law firm solely for the leisure industry, and we have lived with you through some tough times. This is the toughest yet and we are committed to helping you through it as before.

COVID-19 – Compliance

There are guidance documents for Pubs, Bars and Restaurants, the Visitor Economy, and Hotels and other guest accommodation, to name but a few. These guidance documents are not always as sector-specific as they sound, just as the hospitality trade can no longer be conveniently divided up into the traditional concepts of pubs, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. It is sometimes the case that requirements in one Government document apply to other sectors, making it vital to consider all the relevant guidance. We can help you make sense of both the guidance and of the regulations that apply, and once the current national lockdown is eased, which Tier you may be in (if and when the Tier-system is reinstated) and indeed whether there are any specific additional restrictions for your area.

We have access to a wide range of resources and experts, together with many contacts at Licensing Authorities and the Police locally and indeed nationally. If you have a specific issue relating to understanding or complying with COVID-related legislation as it applies to your business, then contact us on 0115 953 8500 or 0203 859 7760. You can also send us details here.

Enforcement

Just as the restrictions are wide ranging, so is potential enforcement, not just for breach of COVID rules and regulations but also under licensing law, adding a new and complex dimension to enforcement. Local Authorities and the Police, where they deem appropriate, can issue fixed penalty notices, prohibition notices or prosecutions under Coronavirus-related legislation, or they may bring a Licence Review or Summary Review under existing licensing legislation.

The approach to enforcement can change over time as well, and it is sometimes the case that a local enforcing authority is out of step with national protocols. We keep up to date with local and national guidance, working to achieve proportionate and consistent local enforcement in line with national practice. If you are visited by the Authorities who have an issue with your premises and how it is complying with Coronavirus-related legislation then contact our specialist team who can help on 0115 953 8500 or 0203 859 7760. You can also send us details here.

We have already assisted several businesses facing COVID enforcement, including a pub owner who was served with a Fixed Penalty Notice for alleged breach of the Tier 3 restriction requiring alcohol to only be sold with a meal, as well as several appeals against Prohibition Notices where requirements have been forced on operators which went beyond the duties imposed by the regulations.

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