The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”) came into force on 26th March. The Regulations require the closure of some businesses and severely restrict the operation of others, including hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafes.
The main provisions relating to hospitality businesses are summarised by John Martyn of Howard Kennedy.
Hotels can no longer supply accommodation for holiday purposes but can carry on business providing accommodation to any person:
Hotels and other accommodation providers can also provide accommodation or support services to the homeless, host blood donation sessions, or to fulfil any request made by a local authority or the Secretary of State for Health.
Providing food and drink
Hotels, restaurants, private members’ clubs, cafes, public houses, bars and clubs must close their dining rooms and cease selling food or drink for consumption on the premises.
There is an exemption for hotels that permits the supply of food and drink by room service to lawfully accommodated residents.
A restaurant can lawfully operate a takeaway food service even if this is not within the scope of its current planning permission but it will be necessary to inform the local planning authority when the new use begins and ends.
A restaurant that operates a takeaway service should consider:
The Regulations can be enforced by any police constable or police community support officer or any person designated by a local authority or the Secretary of State for Health (collectively referred to as “authorised persons” in the Regulations).
A police constable has a power to arrest a person who is breaching the Regulations if it is considered necessary to maintain public health or public order.
Any authorised person may issue a Prohibition Notice for any breach of the Regulations on trading, requiring a person to cease contravening the requirement.
Prosecution and penalties
It is a criminal offence to breach any of the restrictions on trading, to fail to comply with a prohibition notice or to obstruct an authorised person. The offences are tried in the magistrates’ court, which in the event of conviction, has the power to impose a fine that reflects the seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender. There is no maximum limit on fines.
Criminal prosecution of directors and officers for breaching the Regulations
If a company is prosecuted for breaching the Regulations, any director or manager is liable to be prosecuted if the offence was committed with the consent or connivance of that director or manager or is attributable to their neglect.
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN)
As an alternative to prosecution, an authorised person has the power to issue a FPN to any person over the age of 18 that the authorised person reasonably believes has committed an offence under the Regulations. Criminal proceedings will not be taken for the offence if the penalty is paid within 28 days.
The penalty for a first FPN is £60 but this is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If a further FPN is issued, the penalty is increased to £120. The penalty is doubled for each additional violation, up to a maximum of £960. It seems unlikely that a repeat offender will be issued with multiple FPNs and a prosecution is likely to follow if it is clear that the Regulations are being flouted.
Duration of the Regulations
The Regulations expire on 26 September 2020 but are subject to review every three weeks, with the first review due to take place on 16 April.