New support for the leisure, tourism and hospitality sector
As lockdown eases across England, the government has issued further guidance and support for pubs, cafes and restaurants that are able to open and operate safely.
From Saturday 4 July 2020, a host of leisure sites will be opening their doors for the first time in months and welcoming customers once again. The gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions will be welcome news for businesses in the sector, which were among the most severely affected.
While they will soon be able to reopen, social distancing must still be maintained along with several other measures to protect workers, customers and the wider public from COVID-19. To meet these requirements, there are a number of steps that must be taken but changes have also been made to help businesses to become COVID-secure.
To explain these in detail, the government has released guidance to help businesses reopen in the coming weeks. These include increased cleaning and hand washing, social distancing (of two metres or one metre where this is not possible), the use of screens and barriers to separate people where possible, back-to-back working, one-way systems and more. Guidance that’s relevant for different types of businesses can be found on the government website.
While re-opening your business may seem like a daunting task, the government has now announced various steps which are designed to support the leisure and hospitality sector at this time. These steps include:
- Simpler and more affordable licensing processes for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside.
- Temporary changes to licensing laws that will enable licensed premises, including pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.
- Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses.
There are also proposed planning freedoms to enable outdoor markets, car boot sales and summer fairs to operate without a planning application.
The consultation period for applications for pavement licenses will also be reduced from 28 calendar days to five working days, with consent granted after 10 working days if the council fails to issue a decision. The application fee for pavement and street cafe license will also be lowered.
These changes will reduce the need for businesses to consider how to make indoor spaces work for them, which is especially useful for smaller venues which may not be able to ensure two metre or one metre distancing.
The announcements build on changes revealed in March that enabled food and drink establishments to offer a takeaway service, helping many to stay open during the lockdown.
Of course, these most recent changes aren’t the only measures introduced to help the hospitality sector. These steps are in addition to the measures that were introduced early in the lockdown such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the availability of up to £25,000 in grant funding, and the 12 month business rates holiday.
For businesses which will not yet be able to bring all their furloughed workers back full-time, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will also continue until October, albeit with employers having to pay an increasing percentage of a furloughed worker’s salary in the months ahead.
As the lockdown is eased and we all adjust to the “new normal”, it’s important for businesses to adapt and transform the way they work to meet their obligations while ensuring their sustainability. On top of the existing support, the new measures will make it easier for businesses to adapt, re-open and continue serving customers by making better use of outdoor space to limit the risk of spreading the virus.
We can also help you to adapt, recover and protect your business and your employees. The months, and probably years, ahead will be challenging, but we can help you to avoid unnecessary expense and make the most of the opportunities that may be found.
For a sector which depends on a busy summer season for survival, the relaxation of these rules could make all the difference in helping businesses to make a profit. Businesses in tourism and hospitality have had an extremely challenging few months but hopefully they can now look forward to a good summer at last.
Eat Out to Help Out scheme
On 8 July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme as part of the summer statement.
This scheme offers a 50% discount per diner, capped at £10, from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.
Restaurants can claim the discount in full from the government via an online form. Registrations open from 13 July 2020.