COVID-19 - advice for alcohol licensing

Last updated: 25 September 2020 at 6pm

From Monday 14 September 2020 you must not meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than six. This applies indoors, outdoors and private homes. Limited exceptions include:

  • Places of worship
  • Restaurants
  • Hospitality venues

As long as the above premises are COVID secure then larger numbers can be hosted but groups of up to six must not mix or form larger groups. Weddings and Funerals can still have up to 30 people. Work, education and organised outdoor sports are not affected.

From 18 September businesses must support NHS Test and Trace. It will be mandatory to collect and store this data for 21 days. Simplified COVID-19 secure guidance is available on the GOV.UK website.

The government has announced further nation measures (expected to be in place until March 2021) to address rising cases of coronavirus in England.

  • Curfew - businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm (from 24 September). Premises must be vacated and closed by 10pm.
  • Table service - in licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at a table. Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site (from 24 September). Payments should be made by card and at the table where possible. Where this is not possible, payments can be made at the bar with regular sanitising of surfaces.
  • Face coverings - pub staff and customers must wear a face covering when indoors at pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and any other premises providing hospitality except when seated at a table to eat and drink.
  • Track and trace - businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can 'check-in' at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contract details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September). Create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue on the GOV.UK website. Businesses must create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue. Details of all customers (name and contact details) must be taken and recorded in accordance with this guidance along with the date and time of entry. Details of staffing rotas must also be recorded and kept for 21 days. Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS test and trace on the GOV.UK website.
  • Rule of 6 - pubs must ensure customers are not meeting socially in groups of more than six and must not take bookings for groups of more than six.
  • Social distancing - social distance at two metres or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable. Risk mitigation includes increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning; keeping non-socially distanced activity time as short as possible; using screens or barriers to separate workers both from each other and customers; using back to back rather than face to face seating layouts; and reducing the number of people each person has contact with using fixed staffing teams.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges with disruption to society likely to last for some time. Pro-active resilience and creativity now will aid in getting back to normal once the pandemic has passed. It is not 'business as usual' for the licensed trade but the licensing team remains operational with reduced staff to assist customers in navigating the current period as effectively as possible.

This page includes information for premises licensed under the Licensing Act 2003. Our Licensing Team is maintaining services in balance of supporting local businesses whilst promoting the licensing objectives.

For business support and guidance please visit our COVID-19 guidance for business page.

Guidance on staying at home and away from others on the GOV.UK website sets out social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to save lives and protect the NHS.

Under the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 many licensed premises have been forced to close. Guidance has been produced for Businesses and premises to close on the GOV.UK website during the ‘emergency period’.

These include pubs, clubs and restaurants selling food or drink for consumption on the premises (which includes any seating areas adjacent to the premises). Food and drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation as part of room service does not constitute consumption on the premises.

Shops, supermarkets, take-away food and drink restaurants, delivery services and off-licences remain open for business and provide a vital role in supplying households with their sustenance. Businesses are able to continue to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises where authorised by the premises licence. Shops, supermarkets, off licences and businesses must ensure customers collecting goods and takeaways abide by the social distance rules and not allow consumption of food or drink on the premises.

Premises who wish to sell alcohol as part of a takeaway service or for consumption off the premises must ensure that the Licence covers off sales as part of the licensable activity and must ensure robust age verification measures are put in place to prevent alcohol being provided to minors.

PDF document COVID-19 - Advice for premises wanting to operate an alcohol delivery service (PDF) [153 kb]

PDF document COVID-19 - Off Sales guidance (PDF) [180 kb]

Business and Planning Act 2020

The Business and Planning Act 2020 has allowed for a quicker application process for tables and chairs or pavements licences. There are also new provisions for the off sales of alcohol. Further information can be found on the following webpages

Premises application guidance

Licence to place tables and chairs on the highway

Guidance for businesses re-opening on 4 July 2020

Emergency period restrictions have affected trading for licensed and hospitality businesses. The most important message regarding re-opening is still to control the virus and save lives. The safety of staff and customers is paramount to ensure this.

For more information, take a look at our webpage - COVID-19 - guidance for businesses opening on 4 July 2020

Licence fees

Licensing Act 2003 fees are set centrally. Councils don’t have flexibility and the Act does not provide any mechanism to refund licence fees.

Premises licences are subject to an annual fee which is due on the anniversary of the grant of the licence. Invoices shall be sent when this is due.

Generally when annual fees become due but are not paid, the premises licence is suspended. This remains the default position.

Premises may be closed due to the lockdown when the annual fee becomes due. If no licensable activities are being conducted you may decide not to pay the annual fee and allow your licence to be suspended. Suspended premises licences can be re-instated upon receipt of the annual fee payment. Premises can be open with the licence suspended if no licensable activity is taking place i.e. restaurant selling food for takeaway or deliveries but no alcohol.

If you are entitled to remain open but are struggling to pay the annual fee due to the pandemic, please contact the licensing team to discuss.

Licensing applications, procedures, administrative issues and hearings

Officers are working to process licence applications within the prescribed period and deal with customer enquiries as promptly as possible. Due to reduced staffing, you may need to wait slightly longer than normal for a response, if this is the case, please bear with us.

Licensing Act applications, hearings and requests are being addressed on a priority basis. We are happy to accept applications online (Premises application guidance), by email and/or by post, although applications served by mailing services may be delayed in the current climate.

Consideration shall be given to business critical matters which may involve deferring non urgent matters. Cases will be considered on their own merits in discussion with applicants.

Dealing with non-compliance

If you are operational but struggling with specific conditions due to the pandemic, please contact us and make us aware you may be breaching conditions. We will consider each case on its own merits and weigh up the impact of potential breaches on the licensing objectives to establish if there is a need for flexibility. If it is determined that non-compliance with a licence condition cannot be temporarily disregarded, licence holders would be required to rectify any breaches as soon as reasonably practicable and with communications be maintained with your designated officer.

New emergency premises closure requirements brought in by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the Business Closure Regulations’) gives councils powers to close certain businesses and other venues that involve social contact without essential grounds for this to take place. These powers are also held by the Police and other Local Authority officers.

Licensed premises found to be breaching the legislative framework in place to prevent coronavirus may face formal action with consideration towards a premises licence review application with a view to revoking the licence.

Re-opening of licensed premises

Please see the checklist below for guidance on re-opening your premises.

PDF document Re-opening checklist (PDF) [225 kb]

Please see the following government guidance:

Keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services

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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