COVID-19 - advice for alcohol licensing

Last updated: 19 July 2021 at 09.00am

Step four of the roadmap will go ahead on Monday 19 July (delayed from 21 June) The Government says that moving to Step 4 is a balance of risks and the public should continue to be cautious. The majority of covid restrictions end on 19 July and guidance emphasises on personal responsibility.

The government expectation is for a gradual easing of restrictions based on informed choice and personal responsibility. The government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport, hospitality venues and when mixing with people you don’t normally meet. Licensed premises and events are encouraged to use the NHS COVID Pass in high-risk settings to help limit the risk of infection in their venues.

Positive cases and contacts of positive cases identified by NHS Test and Trace will still be legally required to self-isolate, to help break chains of transmission.

Updated guidance on the lifting of restrictions has now been released. Key points around the changes are that:

  • All settings will be able to open, including nightclubs.
  • Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements.
  • Businesses will be encouraged to display QR codes for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, although it will no longer be a legal requirement.

Guidance for licensed premises to take steps to ensure that customers who have symptoms or who are self-isolating do not attend your facility.

  • Clearly communicate that customers cannot come to your venue if they need to self-isolate (e.g they have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace; are required to isolate after travel; or because they are displaying any COVID-19 symptoms (a high temperature, new and persistent cough, or a loss of/change in sense of taste or smell), even if these symptoms are mild). Customers should be informed that if they, or anyone they live with, have one or more of these symptoms they should not attend, and should follow the guidance on testing and self-isolation.

Ensure customers know how to visit your venue or event safely.

  • Consider how you can inform visitors of any changes to processes in advance of their visit, for example on your website, when booking by phone or email, and in your digital marketing.

  • Ensure you make any entry requirements (such as the NHS COVID Pass - see below) clear to customers before booking, and at the point of sale.

  • Take steps to remind visitors of special measures if they are complex, varied or likely to be forgotten. For example, you could reinforce messages on signs through spoken communication from a greeter, or other staff.

  • Encourage customers to follow good hygiene practices, such as using hand sanitiser when they enter the building and washing their hands regularly. Consider how to ensure safety messages reach those with hearing or vision impairments.

  • Pre-event communications can be a particularly effective measure for events. You can find further advice about communications for events in the section on event planning.

Do not admit customers who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19

  • If a customer presents with symptoms, or you become aware of a case of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 on-site, they should not be admitted or should be asked to leave the facility or event, unless they need to be transported to hospital for treatment. The customer should be advised to self-isolate in line with NHS guidelines and to take a PCR test.

Consider displaying an NHS QR code so that customers can check in using the NHS COVID-19 app.

  • You are no longer required to collect customer contact details, or keep a record of your staff and visitors. However, you are advised to continue to display an NHS QR code for customers wishing to check in using the app, as this will help to reduce the spread of the virus and protect your customers, visitors and staff. You do not have to ask customers to check in, or turn them away if they refuse. If you display an NHS QR code, you should also have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details, for those who ask to check in but who do not have access to a smartphone or who prefer not to use the app.

Consider using the NHS COVID Pass to reduce the risk of transmission at your venue or event.

  • The NHS COVID Pass allows people to demonstrate that they are at a lower risk of carrying COVID-19 and transmitting it to others, through vaccination, testing or natural immunity. It can help organisations to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

  • The government will work with organisations that operate large, crowded settings where people are likely to be in close proximity to others outside their household to encourage the use of the NHS COVID Pass.

  • To support businesses, organisations and individuals in these settings, the NHS COVID Pass will be available through the NHS App, the NHS website, or as a letter that can be requested by ringing NHS 119. Visitors will also be able to show text or email confirmation of test results.

  • If you use the NHS COVID Pass, you should ensure that you comply with all relevant legal obligations and guidance, including on equalities. The government will publish more guidance on using the NHS COVID Pass shortly.

  • Even when using the NHS COVID Pass, it is still important that you follow the rest of the guidance and put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading at your venue. 

  • Consider how best to reduce risks to customers.

  • Minimise unnecessary contact. You could do this by using online booking and pre-payment, and encouraging contactless payments wherever possible.

  • Ensure that any measures you put in place are suitable for your facility or event. For example, for business events and conferences, you could consider providing (or recommending the purchase of) name tags and a badge holder for business cards, to avoid the exchange of business cards.

  • There will be additional factors to consider if you are operating a large or complex event, such as a conference or festival. You can find additional information in the section on crowd management and events.

  • There will also be additional factors to consider if your facility is (or you are holding events in) a venue with specific requirements, such as a historic building like a stately home or castle. You can find more information on safety measures in heritage locations (including consent and planning permission) in the additional guidance for heritage locations, and further advice in Heritage England’s guidance on reopening a heritage location.

  • You should not introduce measures which involve spraying people with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) under any circumstances. You can find more information about these types of measures in the HSE guidance on disinfecting using fog, mist and other systems. The use of temperature screening products is not recommended by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, as there is little scientific evidence to support temperature screening as a reliable method for detection of COVID-19, particularly for asymptomatic cases.

Managing customers, spectators and audiences

There are no capacity caps on the number of people permitted to attend visitor attractions or events. However, you may wish to take steps to ensure customers can attend as safely as possible, for example by introducing one-way systems to minimise crowding. These are likely to be specific to your type of venue or event, so you should think about the most appropriate steps you could take to manage risk.

For example, you could:

  • Consider how you can reduce risk to staff who work with large numbers of guests. For example, installing screens can be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other. You could consider installing screens at ticket offices or box offices, and providing hand sanitiser for staff and customers.

  • Consider using a CO2 monitor to assess whether there is sufficient ventilation in your venue. If you identify that ventilation is poor, you should take steps to improve fresh air flow. If you cannot increase the supply of fresh air, you should consider whether you can reduce the number of people in your venue. You can find more information on ventilation and CO2 monitors in the section on ventilation.

  • Identify areas of crowding and consider what steps can be taken to avoid congestion, if they present a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. For example, historic buildings such as places of worship or ruined structures often have constrained spaces such as small rooms, narrow staircases and limited entrance or exit points. Measures such as limiting the number of people entering the space or staggering entrance and exit times will help to avoid overcrowding.

  • In stadiums, auditoriums and theatre-style settings, consider:

    • Providing allocated seating where possible. You should ensure that your facility is accessible (in line with your responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010) and that seating arrangements take into account the needs of people with disabilities and wheelchair users, and support from carers. You should also consider how seating arrangements work with any other accessibility services you offer, such as access to captioning or audio description services.
    • Where allocated seating is not possible, consider other ways to reduce these risks, such as additional stewarding. You can find more information in the section on crowd management and events.
    • When considering any interventions, you should take into account the impact on people with protected characteristics, and the need for any reasonable adjustments. You should also take into account the impact of measures on clinically extremely vulnerable people, who may require different support and interventions to other attendees.

Contact details

Licensing team

Telephone: 01256 844844

Contact us

  • Contact us online
  • 01256 844844
  • Civic Offices
    London Road
    RG21 4AH
  • Opening hours
    Monday to Thursday
    8.30am to 5pm
    8.30am to 4.30pm
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