As the Coronavirus measures have stepped up, the UK & Scottish Governments have declared that all pubs, clubs, restaurants and non-essential retail should close. Lockdown is firmly underway.
On-sale licensed premises can remain open for the purposes of take-away and delivery (though many are opting only to offer contact free delivery for health and safety reasons).
What should operators do?
Since the Government advice regarding these closures has changed from advisory to mandatory, we would reiterate our recommendations to operators that they should give careful consideration to all policies of business insurance to ascertain whether or not they are covered for losses that they will incur.
We can also provide tailored advice around the various Government schemes in place to safeguard employment, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which is intended to safeguard jobs while employees are unable to work. The UK Government is expected to propose further assistance schemes for the self-employed after mounting pressure to equalise the financial rescue packages available to employees and business. When this is available we will be on hand to assist.
The Scottish Government issued Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business and Social Distancing Guidance on 25 March. For a business that has not been specifically ordered to close e.g. for premises operating as takeaway and delivery only, or indeed for many off sale premises which are essential food businesses, the guidance seeks to offer clarity on the recommended steps where the business is operating and therefore members of the public are not at home. The guidance provides:
- Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistance and take equivalent measures to protect workforce consistent with fair working principles;
- Let people enter the shop only in small groups to ensure spaces are not crowded
- Ensure queue control consistent with social distancing advice outside of the shop and other essential premises that remain open
The Guidance further confirms the "retail" premises that may remain open:
Supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies, petrol station, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, garages, car rentals, pet shops, and corner shops. Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol including those within breweries, newsagents, post offices and banks.
Licensing laws still apply
It is important to remember that while certain rules around deliveries of food and takeaway might be regarded as "relaxed", the rules around delivery of alcohol remain in force. Equally there has been no relaxation of rules around areas of display and capacity of alcohol within licensed premises. Therefore any premises that wishes to alter this will require to apply for consent to vary their licence.
As most licensing boards are operating on a restricted basis, please seek our specialist advice on what changes might realistically be achieved at this time before making any changes to the layout of your premises. Whilst the famine for on sale premises is a short term feast for off sales premises, the strict rules under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 remain in place.
Get in touch
If you have any questions relating to this our any other issues affecting your licensed premise during the current crisis, Harper Macleod's specialist professional advisers are ready, willing and able to assist.
You can find more information and contact details below.
We are here to help you if you need it.