As the latest easing of lockdown commenced on July 19, 2021, the government has issued guidance for people who work in, or run restaurants, pubs and cafes and similar venues in England. David Edwards, partner and head of Harrison Drury’s regulatory team, highlights the key points in the guidance and outlines the government’s future plans for the sector.
On July 19, 2021, the government moved to step 4 of its the roadmap plan to ease restrictions in England. While many of the legal restrictions that the government has imposed through the pandemic have been lifted in step 4, cautious guidance remains, with the government making it clear in its roadmap this is not yet a “return to normal”.
The roadmap reports: “While cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. We will continue to manage the virus and provide guidance over the coming months.”
There is no doubt that step 4 brings greater opportunity for the hospitality and leisure sector to open and operate at full capacity with little or no restrictions, with many venues reopening for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Yet, despite face masks no longer required to be worn indoors, nor the recording a patron’s details as part of NHS’s track and trace service, the government encourages this sector to still take measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections and to remind venue operators of their obligations to protect workers, provide a safe place to work and to continue to take precautions to help to protect customers.
The latest information issued from the government for restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services is guidance rather than compulsory rules. It offers six steps to protect business owners, employees and customers during coronavirus.
- Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19.
- Provide adequate ventilation.
- Clean more often.
- Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Enable people to check in at your venue.
- Communicate and train.
Key points in the guidance
Keeping employees, customers and visitors safe
- Providing clear guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 people before and when they arrive.
- Encouraging customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the venue.
- Although face masks are no longer compulsory, employers should support staff who wish to continue wearing them.
Managing the service of food and drink
- Reducing the number of surfaces touched by both staff and customers.
- Encouraging customers to make orders for takeaway or delivery online, on apps or by phone.
- Encouraging contactless payments where possible.
- Use screens at points of service, for example at tills and counters, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading between front of house workers and customers.
The management of customer restrooms
- Using signs and posters.
- Setting clear use and cleaning guidance.
- Keeping the facilities well ventilated.
Tests for employees
- Employers are encouraged to continue to manage a planned procedure for employees testing positive for COVID-19 in order to protect remaining staff and reduce the risk of spreading the virus among other workers. This includes ensuring to offer a safe and controlled environment for onsite testing.
Full vaccination required to attend large events
The government has also recently announced that from the end of September 2021, in England, people attending nightclubs and similar venues where large crowds gather will need to be fully vaccinated.
This comes with its vaccine programme aiming to have offered all over-18s the chance to receive both vaccine doses and develop immunity within this timeframe.
The vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi MP was quoted regarding the announcement: “We will ensure the appropriate exemptions for those who have genuine medical reasons for why they can’t get vaccinated and I’m clear we will always look at the evidence available and do all we can to ensure people can continue to do the things they love.”
This news will no doubt be unwelcomed by the majority of hospitality operators, with no further details provided yet as to how the process will work and how it will be policed. This leaves the venue operators most likely having to take responsibility themselves to manage the government’s requirements.
There is also no clear definition yet as to which venues housing large crowds will be affected by the announcement, with nightclubs appearing to be targeted. Until further details are provided by the government, it is very much unfortunately a ‘wait and see’ situation for the whole hospitality sector, leaving them with little time to prepare for the new rules.
Harrison Drury’s regulatory team will provide further details regarding this latest announcement nearer to the proposed date for the new rules regarding attending large events.
If you are an operator in the leisure and hospitality sector and wish to discuss any of the matters highlighted in this article, please contact Harrison Drury’s regulatory team team on 01772 258321.