Shropshire Council

Tier 2: High Alert Q & A’s for businesses

03 December 2020 Last updated at 12:14

Shropshire Council has issued the message below for businesses to help clarify key issues arising from the recently introduced regulations:

Tier 2 restrictions are now in place for Shropshire and will be reviewed for adjustment by central government every two weeks. Largely, these restrictions intend to limit the amount of time spent in hospitality and thus mitigate the risks posed by extended exposure time. By ensuring that people are eating and are not attending a venue solely to drink alcohol, the risk of falling inhibition leading to a lack of social distancing and the undermining of other COVID-secure measures is reduced.

Businesses that are open will be expected to make every effort to comply with both the letter of the regulations, as well as the spirit of them. Where there is ambiguity, businesses are asked to think about the purpose of the legislation – to stop the spread of the virus – and how they can ensure they continue to operate safely for both staff members and customers. If all businesses work together, Shropshire stands a greater chance of reducing the tier level for the county sooner. 

You are advised to read ‘the regulations’ as well as familiarising yourself with Government guidance both of which can be found on the GOV.UK website.

If you have a particular query you are unsure about, please contact advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk / 0345 678 9067 selecting option 3.

Below are answers to some of the main FAQ’s that have been raised as a result of the new regulations.

What constitutes a substantial meal?

A substantial or ‘table meal’ is such as might be expected to be served as breakfast, the main midday or main evening meal, or as a main course at such a meal. A ‘table meal’ is a meal eaten by a person seated at a table, or at a counter or other structure which serves the purposes of a table and is not used for the service of refreshments for consumption by persons not seated at a table or structure serving the purposes of a table.

A substantial meal will be determined on its merits.  The key considerations are that alcohol can only be served as part of the meal and that the main purpose of frequenting the premises must be to have a main plated meal served at a table.  The alcohol is only part of and secondary to the meal.

Do all members of the group need to eat a substantial meal?

Yes.  It is not acceptable for only one person in a group to eat and all members of the group to drink alcohol, or for a single main meal, normally intended for one person, to be ordered and shared between the members of a group. 

Can premises serving alcohol (with food) serve non-alcoholic drinks without food?

Yes – subject to certain restrictions, e.g. full table service must continue.

Can un-licenced premises (e.g. un-licenced cafes) serve non-alcoholic drinks without food?

Yes – subject to certain restrictions, e.g. customers must remain seated when consuming drinks whilst on the premises.

When is a guest expected to leave their table after finishing a meal?

The amount of time spent on the premises will be proportionate to the meal consumed, e.g. a sandwich and chips will not allow customers to remain on the premises for the same length of time as a customer who has a three-course meal. It is reasonable to expect a guest to leave as soon as practicable after finishing their meal.

The amount of alcohol being served must be proportionate to the food being provided.  Businesses must not allow customers to spend an unlimited amount of time in their premises simply because food has been provided.  However, if a customer chooses to stay and order soft drinks or hot drinks (not containing alcoholic shots) after their meal, they may remain at their table for any period of time, subject to any business decision to restrict the time allocated for the use of the table.

What’s the maximum size group allowed to meet inside?

Groups eating indoors are limited to one household or support bubble. A household or support bubble may be larger than 6 people; however, if you suspect or know a group is not in the same household or bubble you should ask the group to leave and report to the police on 101, or 999 if there is immediate danger.

Are ‘business lunches’ involving multiple owners/staff permitted to meet inside?

No - this would not be one household or support bubble.

What’s the maximum size group that can meet outside?

Maximum 6 people from 6 households (‘the rule of six’).

What is meant by ‘outside’?

The area must not be enclosed, or substantially enclosed.  This aligns with the rules that relate to smoke-free premises, i.e. if you would not be permitted to smoke in the area, then it will not be an outside area and only one household or support bubble will be permitted to eat in this area; the ‘rule of six’ will not apply.

Who is expected to enforce the mixing with different households rules?

Businesses should ask all customers visiting to confirm that they are part of the same household or bubble if sitting inside, or a maximum of 6 people from a maximum of 6 households if outside, and that they are complying with the restrictions. You should record the answer to this question. Businesses do not have power to enforce the rules themselves, but should ask people to leave if they know or strongly suspect customers to be breaking the law. Businesses should also report breaches to the police on 101 (unless there is immediate danger, then it is appropriate to call 999). Businesses are not legally required to ask customers for ID to confirm address.

Can a business who does not serve food partner up with a nearby food business to enable them to open?

In principal, this is not prohibited; however, the food must be ordered from and be provided by the premises that is serving alcohol and must be integral to the transaction in which alcohol is purchased.

It is likely that further consideration will be required on an individual basis, so please seek further advice on advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk / 0345 678 9067 selecting option 3.

It will also be prudent to check your premises licence and planning consent for any conditions that prevent the preparation or consumption of food on the premises and to ensure the premises continues to have the correct planning usage category in place. Once you have decided what to do, any changes to the provision of food in your premises under your food business registration with the Council must be notified to food@shropshire.gov.uk

What hours can I open?

For the purposes of ‘on sales’, hospitality businesses must close between 11pm and 5am (expect where exemptions apply), and must stop taking orders from 10pm.

Can I continue serving food and drink after 10pm for takeaway/delivery?

Yes. Hospitality businesses can offer food and drink for consumption off the premises, i.e. takeaway, at any time; however, after 11pm this must only be through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.

For further advice, please contact advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk / 0345 678 9067 selecting option 3.