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Advice to public houses and bars on the current COVID-19 restrictions


Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all, for the responsible measures you have taken to date to comply with the government’s guidance and legislation. Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 pubs and bars must:

  • Cease selling food or drink for consumption on the premises. A garden, car park, or a seating area etc. adjacent to the premises is considered to be part of the premises, whether the seating is provided by the premises or not.
  • Close any part of the premises in which food or drink are sold for consumption on the premises.


The government have stated that consideration will be given to pubs and bars being able to open from July 4th 2020 onwards, as long as premises can meet with social distancing measures and/or other controls.

Until such a time as pubs and bars are permitted to reopen, we understand many businesses  have questions about  offering a takeaway service and we wanted to advise that if your public house/bar wants to operate as a takeaway only business you would need to consider the following steps:


1. Planning

The Government has relaxed permitted development regulations for 12 months so that pubs and restaurants (Class A3 and A4 uses) can operate temporarily as hot food takeaway outlets without needing planning permission for a change of use.  You must notify the Local Planning Authority if they are intending to change the use of their premises to a temporary use for the "provision of takeaway food" during the 1 year period from 24/03/2020 to 23/03/2021 and can do so, in writing, by emailing DevelopmentControl@DOVER.GOV.UK identifying the business name and address and when the hot food takeaway use commenced. At the end of the temporary period those businesses will be required to revert to their original lawful uses.



2. Licence

If the premise wishes to serve alcohol as part of the takeaway service you must have ‘off sales’ stated on your licence. This would be stated on your licence and can be verified with licensing@dover.gov.uk (01304 872295). If you do not have off sales, then you would need to apply for a full variation. The local authority is also allowing premises that wish to change their licence to include off sales during the current crisis the option to apply for a time-limited (6 month) minor variation to their licence. Temporary Event Notices (TENs) can be applied for within this time period to allow trading. The licensing objectives still stand (prevention of public nuisance, protection of children against harm etc) so premises need to think carefully about the effect of your actions on your neighbours and the community.

Premises remain subject to the Licensing Act 2003 and any licence conditions in force when carrying out licensable activities. In terms of licensing, if a premises is not taking suitable and reasonable measures to control the risk of the virus spreading, it could be argued that they are failing in their efforts to uphold the Public Nuisance licensing objective, and could cause a premises to be subject to a review of their licence.


3. Social Distancing

The premises also needs to think about how you can comply with the current regulations relating to staff safety, social distancing etc. The government has issues guidance on how you can trade safely which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery


  • For food takeaway premises (whether drink or food) the primary control is to provide adequate social distancing measures. If the premises is able to provide a service through a hatch or window then this is preferable to having the customer inside the premises. These must be order / collection points only and the regular bar area be used to pour any alcohol into an open vessel before delivering to the collection point. 
  • Should customers need to be on the premises then having other controls such as screens between customers and staff and the use of barriers so customers do not get too close to the servery should be considered. Timed collections are also a good idea and ideally contactless payment so customers are on the premises for as little time as possible. No fixed seating inside or outside should be provided during this time.
  • Maintain queue control outside of pubs and restaurants so that the 2m rule is observed by those waiting in the queue – customers must not be allowed to congregate or loiter.
  • Payment by direct electronic transfer or tap – preferably no cash to be handled
  • Customer waiting areas to be controlled, for example by demarcation of 2m square boxes
  • Frequent thorough cleaning and disinfection of all hand contact points in the serving hatch, door or area.
  • Do not allow customers to use the toilet within the premises.
  • Remove, or if not possible to remove, rope off or otherwise mark out of use any seating area that customers may have access to such as outdoor seating.


4. Food Safety Advice

If providing takeaway food is new to you or you need a refresher we have put some food safety advice on our website at: https://www.dover.gov.uk/Environment/Environmental-Health/Coronavirus-Business-closures-and-advice-for-takeaways.aspx.


5. Wider Implications

The final consideration is the effect of this service on the wider community. There are no public toilets open at the moment (most of Dover Council public toilets are due to open from June 9th) or the public toilets may not be local to your business. Some public spaces have restrictions placed on them to prevent the consumption of alcohol. Also, customers who may purchase drinks from your takeaway service may litter plastic cups; we would recommend you litter pick around your premises to ensure your service is not implicating on others.


It is important to us that we continue to work pro-actively with our businesses during this extremely difficult and extraordinary moment in time.


We hope you find this information helpful; you can contact us at publicprotection@dover.gov.uk if you have any questions or need advice regarding your business.