New COVID-19 Laws for Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Cafes
A series of new restrictions to try to stop the spread of coronavirus have been announced. Here is a useful Q and A for those running restaurants and bars in England from 24th September 2020
Who needs to wear a face covering?
Face coverings are compulsory for hospitality staff in indoor areas that are open to the public and they are likely to come within close contact with members of the public.
Staff working behind a physical screen or barrier do not have to wear a face covering but those wearing face visors must wear one as they do not meet the definition of a face covering.
Back of house staff are not required by law to wear face coverings. However they should be considered as part of your COVID-19 risk assessment if 2 metre safe distancing cannot be achieved.
Non-seated customers must wear face coverings indoors and businesses must remind them, such as by displaying posters.
Who does not need to wear face coverings?
Some people do not have to wear a face covering. They include:
- Children under 11
- Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
- People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
- Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
Those who have an age, health, or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this or show exemption cards.
Can people be fined for not wearing a face covering?
Yes, it is £200 for the first offence. Repeat offenders will have their fines doubled for successive offences, up to a maximum of £6,400.
When must restaurant and bars close?
Hospitality venues must close between 22.00 and 05.00. Deliveries and drive-thru services (but not takeaways) can continue after this time.
Hotel dining rooms and bars will need to close to the public between 10pm – 5am and to cease service. They will still be able to provide food and drink through room service as long as it is ordered by phone or online. Hotel residents will not be required to be in their rooms by 10pm and may continue to sit in public areas.
Businesses not closed by 22.00 can be fined £10,000.
Can people collect food or drinks from the bar?
Except for takeaways, only table ordering and service is allowed in licensed premises (both inside and outdoors).
Unlicensed cafes, coffee shops and restaurants may permit counter ordering and service but customers must be seated, not standing, indoors if they are consuming on the premises.
Licenced venues, or rooms within venues, may voluntarily choose to not to sell alcohol to allow them to provide limited counter service.
How far apart must tables be spaced?
Businesses must ensure that tables are at least 2 metres apart (or 1 metre plus mitigation measures). If venues cannot manage 2 metres, they must put in place strict precautions e.g. screens between tables or back to back seating.
How many people can sit together?
A maximum of 6 people (all ages are in that headcount) can sit together inside or outside. Table bookings of more than six are not allowed (unless in the same household or support bubble).
Groups must be prevented from mingling.
Businesses taking bookings of more than 6 people can be fined £10,000.
Does the ‘rule of 6’ apply to business meetings?
No, business meetings of up to 30 are exempt. If venues have separate meeting facilities, these can be hired out simultaneously if social distancing can be maintained and groups kept separate.
It is unclear whether the exemption for business meetings allows food and drink to be served for up to 30 in socially distanced private dining; the current guidance is ambiguous but suggests that while food may be provided where it is ancillary to the meeting, private dining is not permitted.
Do we have to display an official NHS QR code poster?
Yes, you must display an NHS Test and Trace QR code close to the entrance. This is to allow those with the NHS app to register their presence using a smartphone.
Where an individual (16 and over) does not scan the QR code, the business must request that at least one of the party provide their name, telephone number (or e-mail address), postal address (if no e-mail address) date of visit, arrival time and where possible departure time. You should refuse entry if they decline to provide contact details.
You also need to keep a record of all staff and their shift times on a given day. This can also also be achieved using the NHS Test and Trace QR code and app.
Contact details must be kept for 21 days and provided to NHS Test and Trace if requested. They must be destroyed soon after that unless there is a lawful reason for retaining that data.
Businesses not collecting contact details or displaying the NHS QR code can be fined.
How do these rules apply to workplace canteens?
Face coverings are not required unless the workplace’s risk assessment or site rules have deemed them necessary.
Workplace canteens do not need to close between 22.00 and 05.00.
Table ordering and service is not required. Staff can queue and collect food from a counter but should eat and drink at tables.
An NHS QR code must be displayed so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ here.
Can businesses that allow staff into work when they should be self isolating be fined?
Yes, businesses not enforcing quarantine and self-isolation rules can be fined £10,000.
Should people work from home if they can?
Yes, people must work from home whenever possible.
No-one can be required to come into work unless the workplace is COVID-SECURE.
What is the legal status of the UK Government’s COVID-SECURE guidelines?
Following COVID-SECURE guidelines is a legal obligation in retail, leisure, tourism, and other sectors (from 28th September 2020).
Businesses not following the guidelines can be fined £10,000.
Who enforces these regulations?
Local council officers. As a last resort, the police can also enforce these laws although, in most cases, it will be environmental health officers.
Failure to comply with these measures is a prosecutable (and arrestable) offence, and employees as well as businesses can be fined.
Safer Food Scores COVID-19 compliance consultants provide COVID-19 management systems which include risk assessments, safe methods, monitoring records and signage. Your COVID-19 checks can be digitised using our health and safety monitoring app available for iOS and Android devices. We can also help you achieve COVID-SAFER UK accreditation which would give your staff, customers and visitors confidence that you are following best practice. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.