Shropshire Council

Off-sales and compliance with Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

09 June 2020 Last updated at 03:56

Shropshire Council’s priority during the coronavirus pandemic is to protect the health and safety of the public and to save lives.  With that in mind, the council has welcomed the Government’s phased approach to reopening of businesses and is reviewing the guidance and plans for the coming months.  However, we are urging significant caution when it comes to licensed premises.

The council has and continues to deliver the necessary services to support licensed businesses.  We are keeping these under review in line with the Government’s advice as the response to the coronavirus develops.  Since the Government introduced the legislation that enforced the closure of certain licensed premises, Shropshire Council has received numerous complaints alleging licensed premises continue to operate in breach of the legislation.  Council officers have adopted a proportionate and pragmatic approach to enforcing business closure restrictions with the majority of licensed premises complying fully with the requirements.

The council is now aware of media articles suggesting pubs could re-open in July by allowing the use of outdoor areas.  We want to stress to all licensed premises and their customers that this is currently not official Government advice and the legislation requirements remain in place for bars, restaurants, cafes and public houses to close their premises in which food or drink are sold for consumption on those premises; this includes any adjacent areas where seating is made available for customers.  The council also strongly urges licensees to avoid the temptation to hold events, including those that may be held under the banner of a charitable purpose, as this will encourage gatherings, which are in breach of the coronavirus restrictions.

Any licensed premises with ‘off sales’ may continue to supply alcohol to the general public for consumption off the premises, providing social distancing and other public health measures are in place to protect customers and staff.  The council has officers with the expertise and skills to advise and support licensees to ensure ’off-sales’ are carried out safely and licensees are encouraged to seek this advice. 

Q&A’S in relation to off sales

In recent weeks we have seen relaxation in some lockdown measures and in increase of footfall in Shropshire due to the weather.  We are aware that premises are supplying alcohol to the public via their ‘off sales’ as a takeaway service. Overall licenced premises have adhered to the new regulations and put social distancing measure in place to protect customers and staff, however they could still face potential enforcement under the Coronavirus regulations and the Licensing Act 2003 if the four licensing objectives are undermined.

Can I supply alcohol from my premises in a sealed or open container?

Yes, if you have ‘off sales’ on your premises licence and no further restrictions on the licence although this is not encouraged by Shropshire Council due to current social distancing measures and the potential undermining of the four licensing objectives by licence holders. Restrictions will be stated on the licence under Annex 2 and 3, including times and days the premises are permitted to supply alcohol to the public. Club premises certificates only allow alcohol ‘off sales’ to be sold in sealed containers.

Can I provide seating for my customers?

No seating is to be provided in the premises or any adjacent areas to the premises. This includes beer gardens, benches and smoking areas and if you knowingly allow this then you are in breach of Regulation 4 (Coronavirus Regulations) which is a criminal offence and it could be felt you are also undermining the licensing objectives.

What if customers take away the alcohol and start consuming their alcohol in the vicinity.

The intention of the regulations was to discourage any sort of congregation on or near the licensed premises and again could be in breach of regulations.

What responsibility do I have for customers and their behaviour who congregate elsewhere once they have purchased alcohol to take away from my premises?

It is expected that premises are encouraging not only social responsibility, as is their responsibility under the Licensing Act 2003, but also social distancing. It is not expected that customers confirm where they intend to take the alcohol to consume, if however open containers are used then it might be reasonable to consider where the customer is going to consume the alcohol. The four licensing objectives should still be being managed enforcement could be taken both under the Licensing Act 2003 and Coronavirus Regulations if breached.

What about customers taking their drinks to consume inside Shrewsbury Town Centre Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) area.

Alcohol can be seized, or the person can be asked to dispose of it.

Can premises be held responsible for the behaviour of individuals or groups beyond the premises or adjacent to them?

Yes, it would depend on the circumstances, but that individual’s behaviour could be linked to the premises.