The Home Office has written to local authorities recommending “flexibility when safeguarding the licensing objectives”. The letter recommends a “considered and pragmatic approach should be taken to breaches of licence conditions and procedural defects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly where these breaches or defects do not have a significant adverse impact on the licensing objectives”.
The letter also states that where businesses are experiencing difficulties in paying premises licence fees and late night levy charges, “the authority should consider delaying any suspension of the licence where the delay in payment or non-payment is related to Covid-19” where business make the authority aware of their situation.
As such UKHospitality said it “urges” all authorities to take this approach to fee payments during this period. It also added it had been in close discussions with the Home Office recommending a more adaptable approach to working with licensees currently affected by the coronavirus.
Councils have also been advised that they should consider allowing deliveries outside of normal times, flexibility on advertising applications, and the use of remote hearings.
UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “This additional flexibility for licensees is some welcome positive news at a moment when any good news is needed. The Government has shown a great deal of common sense in advising local authorities to act more pragmatically and flexibly during the outbreak.
“Hospitality businesses are currently under a huge amount of strain. The majority have no revenue whatsoever at the minute, and those that are operating in some capacity are working hard to support the needs of their communities and key workers.”
She added: “Pursuing a tactic of “business as usual” would have only heaped more pressure on businesses and stretched council resources even further.This scope for greater flexibility while the crisis is still in full swing is exactly the kind of lateral approach to business support we need.”