Legal tips for restaurants during coronavirus disruption

Ten days after UK restaurants were told to close, and two weeks after the public was told to avoid them, two lawyers give their top tips for weathering the storm.

On 16 March, Boris Johnson addressed the nation, advising citizens to avoid social contact, work from home and stay away from pubs, bars and restaurants.

While some continued to frequent eateries until they were ordered to close on 21 March, the hospitality industry experienced a dramatic fall in business before a ban on dine-in service was enforced.

On-trade analyst CGA reported that like for like pub, bar and restaurant sales fell by 71% during the week the government ordered all licensed premises to close down due to the coronavirus crisis.

The number of shifts currently available to workers in the UK hospitality industry has also fallen by 76% compared to last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While dining in has been banned, restaurants, pubs and bars may operate as a takeaway service. Deliveroo claims it has seen almost 3,000 new UK restaurants join the platform in the past month. Some have also turned their restaurants into shops, selling daily essentials, fresh produce and ready meals.

To help businesses cope during the crisis, the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has extended the business rates holiday to cover all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. He also said that companies in the hospitality sector could apply for an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business to help bridge through the period.

The government has also promised to cover 80% of salaries, up to £2,500 a month, for furloughed members of staff. Charities such as Hospitality Action and The Drinks Trust have set up campaigns to aid affected workers.

In the face of so much disruption, and the desire to protect the health of workers, two lawyers present their advice.

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