Licensing news and updates


Licensing Act 2003 - News and Updates

4 January 2021 - England move to Tier 5 national lockdown

From 00:01 on 5 January, England will move to the highest tier restrictions, tier 5.  In lieu of the Regulations expected tomorrow, we look at the guidance published in advance of the national lockdown coming into force.

The official guidance published (tracked changes version) sets out the implications for the hospitality sector and other businesses.

Businesses and venues which must close as part of the national lockdown are:

  • non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services.
  • hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.
  • accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes
  • leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts,fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses. 
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks
  • animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves)
  • indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes
  • community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services

Some of these businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities. A full list of exemptions can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:​            

  • education and training – for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision
  • childcare purposes and supervised activities for those children eligible to attend
  • hosting blood donation sessions and food banks
  • to provide medical treatment
  • for elite sports persons to train and compete (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), and professional dancers and choreographers to work (in fitness and dance studios)
  • for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls) for the purposes of film and TV filming

Businesses and venues which can remain open

Other businesses and venues are permitted to stay open, following COVID-19 secure guidelines. Businesses providing essential goods and services can stay open. The full list of these businesses can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:

  • essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
  • market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open
  • businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services
  • petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • medical and dental services
  • vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
  • animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
  • agricultural supplies shops
  • mobility and disability support shops
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
  • outdoor playgrounds
  • outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
  • places of worship
  • crematoriums and burial grounds

20 December 2020 - The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Obligations of Undertakings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Following the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday 19th December, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Obligations of Undertakings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 have now been published, bringing in the new Tier 4 restrictions.  The Regulations came into force at 7:00am this morning (20th December).

The Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the All Tiers Regulations”) to introduce an additional tier of restrictions (“Tier 4”); move all 32 London boroughs and the City of London and some local authority areas in the east and south east of England from Tier 3 to Tier 4; and amends the Christmas period exception to the gathering limits in Tiers 1, 2 and 3. This is to ensure that appropriate levels of intervention are made in the right places to manage Covid-19 outbreaks and help suppress the virus.

View the Regulations

View the Explanatory Memorandum


19 December 2020 - Prime Minister announces Tier 4: 'Stay At Home' Alert Level in response to new COVID variant

The Prime Minister has announced tougher restrictions for large parts of South East England with a new Tier 4: ‘Stay at Home’ alert level.

The decision follows a rapid rise in infections attributed to the rapid spread of a new variant of COVID-19.

Based on preliminary modelling data, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread significantly more quickly and could increase R by 0.4 or more. New and existing data will continue to be analysed as we learn more about the variant.

As a result, the following areas will move from Tier 3 to Tier 4:

  • Kent, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings;
  • London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London); and
  • the East of England (Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

In Tier 4 the ‘Stay At Home’ message will be put in law. As previously, there will be exemptions - including travelling for work or education, for childcare purposes, and for exercise.

People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home. Where people cannot work from home, they should still travel to work, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Non-essential retail, indoor leisure [such as swimming pools and gyms], indoor entertainment [such as cinemas, bowling alleys and casinos], and personal care sectors [such as nail bars, barbers and hairdressers] must all close.

Tighter social contact restrictions will also be introduced, meaning one person can meet with one other person in an outside public space. Rules on support bubbles and childcare bubbles will remain as currently, and communal worship can continue to take place.

For the clinically extremely vulnerable, the same advice as in November applies in Tier 4 areas. This says that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, which includes people with certain types of cancer, people on immunosuppression therapy, and people with severe respiratory conditions, shouldn’t go to work and should limit time outside the home, and take exercise outside at less busy times.

The Prime Minister, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Advisor and Cabinet agreed that while no-one wants to impose these tougher measures, the new variant has significantly changed the current landscape and urgent action is needed to protect the NHS and save lives.

Throughout the pandemic, the evidence has shown that rising rates will lead to increased hospital admissions, risking intolerable pressure on the NHS in the toughest winter months.

There is no current evidence to suggest the new variant causes a higher mortality rate, that it affects vaccines and treatments, or that testing will not detect cases.

The Prime Minister also said that given the risk the new variant poses, the Christmas bubble policy will no longer apply in Tier 4.

For Tiers 1, 2 and 3, Christmas bubbles can continue with up to three households able to meet, but for one day only on Christmas Day.

The government is also issuing new travel advice. Although the new variant is concentrated in Tier 4 areas, it is present at lower levels around the country.

People under Tier 1, 2, and 3 restrictions should stay local. People should not travel into or out of Tier 4 areas and those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions including work and education.

Tier 4 rules will be reviewed on 30 December, as part of the wider review of all restrictions.

17 December - The All Tiers Regulations (England) and guidance 

The All Tiers Regulations (England) and guidance provide the new rules in place from 2 December. This NEXSTART note published on 17 December, addresses 2 key concerns that have been identified:

Q1. What are the requirements for businesses to check household status/bubble status?

Q2.. Is entertainment permitted?

Contributors are:

  • Jim Cathcart (UK Hospitality)
  • Ian Graham (National Police Chiefs Council, Licensing Advisory Group)
  • John Miley (National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers)
  • Clare Eames (Poppleston Allen)
  • David Lucas (Institute of Licensing)
  • Leo Charalambides (Kings Chambers)

Link to NEXSTART resources

14 December 2020 - Three Rivers moves to Tier 3

From 00.01 on Wednesday 16 December, Three Rivers, along with Watford, Broxbourne, Hertsmere and the whole of London will be going into Tier 3.

For official government guidance on what you can and can’t do in Tier 3 please visit:

Hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha bars), pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. This includes restaurants and bars within hotels or member’s clubs. 

Businesses and venues selling alcohol for consumption off the premises can continue to do so as long as this is through takeaway, delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through. Food or alcohol purchased from a hospitality premises via takeaway or click-and-collect may not be consumed on any part of that premises, including beer gardens, as well as adjacent seating to the premises

2 December 2020 - Three Rivers in Tier 2

Following the announcement from central Government, please see details below of the Tier 2 restrictions for Three Rivers. This comes into effect on 00:01 on 2 December.

Summary of measures under tiers on the Institute of Licensing website

Tier 2 restrictions on the GOV.UK website

UK Hospitality is keeping its website and guidance regularly updated. There is a useful guide to the Winter Tier System which can be viewed here 

In tier 2:

  • you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
  • hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
    • provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
    • close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt)
    • stop taking orders after 10pm
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
  • public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • places of worship remain open but you must not socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stone settings.
  • organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue
  • organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
  • you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
  • if you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges with disruption to society likely to last for some time. Pro-active resilience and creativity now will aid in getting back to normal once the pandemic has passed. It is not 'business as usual' for the licensed trade but the licensing team remains operational to assist customers in navigating the current period as effectively as possible.

Read about the arrangements for the Christmas period between 23 December and 27 December.  

23 November 2020 - Government Covid-19 Winter Plan

The Government has published its COVID-19 Winter Plan including details of England’s lockdown exit strategy and details of the revised tiers for England from 3 December.

Relevant extracts from the plan include:


The prevalence of the virus will remain high across the country on 2 December, with regional differences. The Government must therefore reimpose a tiered regional approaching England to keep suppressing the virus through the winter period.

The Government will introduce a new, stronger and more sustainable tiers framework on 2 December:

Medium (Click here for a summary table of the restriction)

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants restricted to table service only, last orders at 22:00 and close at 23:00

High (Click here for a summary table of the restriction)

  • Pubs and bars must close unless they are operating as takeaway.

Very High (Click here for a summary table of the restriction)

  • Hospitality venues must remain closed.


The Government will legislate to enhance the tools available to Local Authorities. Local Authorities will be given streamlined powers to issue improvement and restriction notices to businesses that are breaching COVID-secure rules, with the ability to compel the immediate closure of a premise that is not complying with COVID-Secure regulations. These new powers will enable upper and lower tier Local Authorities to take swift and effective action against those premises that are posing a risk to public health. Businesses will also face financial penalties for not meeting the requirements of an improvement or restriction notice issued by a Local Authority. The Government is clear that these powers should only be used where necessary and proportionate to do so, and by trained local authority enforcement officers. Local Authorities will continue the approach they have taken to date; engaging, educating and encouraging premises to comply, and only taking enforcement action to address the most pressing public health risks.

 9 November 2020 - Pubs and restaurants granted ‘automatic’ permission for takeaway food and alcohol until 2022

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is reportedly drawing up plans to extend the automatic entitlement for takeaways and off sales for alcohol until March 2022.
Reported in the I newspaper, Mr Jenrick said his department will look into whether this “one-size-fits-all approach should become the norm.” Mr Jenrick said: “We’ve taken decisive action since the beginning of the pandemic to support our pubs, restaurants, cafes and markets. Making it easier for them to provide takeaways has helped these businesses to adapt and helped sustain many through an unbelievably difficult year. That’s why I am extending these simple but effective reforms to support these businesses – helping give them and their employees more certainty over the coming year. It will also be a boost for their customers who can now look forward to continuing to enjoy meals at home from their favourite restaurants. As these reforms have made such a difference I will be considering making them permanent.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The ability to provide takeaway services was a valuable lifeline for many hospitality venues, not just during the lockdown but in the days of reduced and restricted trade, too.
The extension will undoubtedly help many. For pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate as takeaways gives them a previously untapped revenue stream and a much better chance to survive what will be a tough winter.”