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Home > News > Preparing to reopen – Advice for for the food, drink & hospitality industry

Preparing to reopen – Advice for for the food, drink & hospitality industry

13 May 2020 | Melissa Toney

For many of us it feels like it has been more than five weeks since regulations came into force in England on the 26th March 2020 closing pubs, restaurants, cafes and other leisure and hospitality venues. The rest of the UK  have adopted a unilateral approach, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acted in a similar manner and required leisure and hospitality operators including cinemas, theatres, bingo halls and betting shops to cease trading for an emergency period, the length of which remains unspecified. 

The UK’s leisure and hospitality sector continues to be heavily affected by prohibitions on social gatherings aimed at restricting the spread of COVID-19. Unless those businesses have been able to reconfigure themselves as delivery or takeaway outlets – taking advantage of a temporary relaxation in change of use rules – doors have remained closed.  

Government announcements

On Monday it was revealed in the Government’s document Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID 19 recovery strategy, that there may be good news for those in the hospitality industry to reopen by the 4th of July 2020 provided they can meet the social distancing regime. At this stage it remains too soon to lift the controls in place for the leisure and hospitality sector businesses. But businesses are encouraged to begin thinking about how they can re-open safely when the time comes.

New guidelines have directed that social distancing measures appliy to everyone and should be followed by employers wherever possible. It encourages venues which are typically crowded by design to adjust themselves and assess whether they can open in part or at all, and encourages workers to wear face-coverings in enclosed places where they cannot maintain safe social distancing.

The government have also released a review process guidance for employers to be implemented immediately entitled Working Safely During COVID 19. This is aimed at business owners offering takeaway or delivery services, giving practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace.

The new control measures that emerge from the review process can usefully be captured in amended risk assessments that demonstrate the adjustments made to take account of the challenges of Covid-19. This will assist employers in discharging the Health and Safety duties they continue to face. It states employers must:

  • maintain 2 meters social distancing whenever possible
  • where employers could not maintain the social distancing regime, they are to manage the transmission risk by putting up barriers in work-spaces, creating work shift patterns of fixed teams or minimising the number of people in contact with each other.

Covid-19 Secure Poster

There is a Covid-19 Secure poster which employers must sign and display at their premise of trade to demonstrate that they have complied with the government’s guidance on managing risk. 

It seems likely that, as part of planning to re-open in due course leisure and hospitality sector businesses will have to consider how they operate, to reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority. Individual venues will need to be proactive and translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of the business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.

Covexit: Planning considerations for the food, drink & hospitality industry

Bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and a host of other hospitality businesses will need to think about making the following changes:

  • the number of people it allows inside at any one time;
  • revisit their layout with physical distancing in mind;
  • whether control of numbers means queuing at busy times and, if so, how that is to be managed;
  • how to manage till points and counters areas (e.g. with floor markings, queue monitors);
  • whether more bookings can be made remotely;
  • whether one way systems would help customers to circulate safely;
  • whether signage is necessary to communicate safety messages to customers;
  • whether the frequency of cleaning/deep cleaning needs to be increased; and
  • whether pop up handwashing stations would be of benefit;
  •  removing some tables and chairs so that greater

The extent of any conditions that may be imposed on leisure and hospitality businesses as they resume operation is still evolving. However, it does appear that we will continue to live in an age of social distancing for some time to come. This will require employers in the sector to take responsibility reflect on their premises and their processes, identify the steps that can be taken to provide protection to employees and customers and determine how these measures can be implemented.

If you are a business owner looking for further advice about planning for the new regulations or licensing requirements as lock down is lifted, our specialist regulatory & licensing solicitors are on hand. Please contact Melissa Toney on 0117 906 9400 or email 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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