What the 4 Tiers Mean for Hospitality

Last weekend, the government introduced a new Tier 4 and placed 16 million people in the south-east of England into this tier. The new, stricter tier was announced because of a new COVID mutation which was spreading more rapidly than the original version and its minor variants. Apparently, the new mutation has 14 variations over the original COVID-19. But what does this mean for hospitality?

Aside from “being screwed” and no “Happy Christmas” which the November lockdown was supposed to save, we seem to be in a complete reversal of what the government set out at the end of October. Here are what the four tiers mean for your business. And here is a map showing England’s tiers. Note that Wales, Scotland and Ireland are devolved and have their own regulations in place. This post covers England.

Update: 4 January – England is now in a full lockdown (like last March) for at least the next 6 weeks. See you mid-February. Hopefully.

Tier 1: Medium

Tier 1 seems like a dream now (unless you live in the Isles of Scilly, Herefordshire, Isle of Wight or Cornwall – at the time of writing on 22 December 2020). Pubs, bars and restaurants remain open and can trade with some restrictions on group sizes.

In summary, you can meet your friends in hospitality venues as long as you don’t exceed a group of 6 people. Larger groups are permitted for same-household and support bubble groups. You can pop in for a pint in your pub without needing to order food.

Venues can host multiple groups and should follow COVID-19-secure guidance, but you must not mix in groups larger than 6, unless you all live together, are in the same support bubble, or another exemption applies. This includes in:

  • pubs and restaurants
  • leisure and entertainment venues
  • personal care/close contact services
  • public buildings, such as libraries, community centres and halls

At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue, or each individual should check-in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed. Here is a summary of the restrictions for various hospitality venues:

  • nightclubs and adult entertainment venues must remain closed
  • hospitality businesses – including cafes, restaurants, bars and social clubs – selling food or drink for consumption on their premises where this includes alcohol are required to provide table service only. In cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports stadia, alcohol can be ordered at a bar to be consumed when seated in the auditorium or area where the screening/performance is taking place. This should be limited to only those with tickets. When it is to be consumed in the bar area itself, full table service must be provided.
  • hospitality venues that do not serve alcohol may allow someone to order from the counter, but they must still consume their meal from a seat if eating in
  • hospitality venues must stop taking orders after 10 pm and must close between 11 pm and 5 am (except in airports, ports, the Folkestone international rail terminal, on public transport services and in motorway service areas, although these places cannot sell alcohol after 11 pm)
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10 pm, such as by take-away. After 11 pm, this must only be through delivery service or click-and-collect or drive-through
  • businesses must not provide shared smoking equipment for use on the premises (no shisha, then)

A full outline of Tier 1 regulations can be found on the government’s website.

Tier 2: High

Tier 2 is more restrictive, but socialising can still go on, albeit to a lesser extent.

The principle difference from Tier 1 is that you can only socialise indoors with the same household. You cannot meet friends indoors at hospitality venues. Also, pubs cannot serve alcohol without serving food alongside it.

Venues can host multiple groups and should follow COVID-secure guidance, but you must not mix with anyone who is not part of your household or support bubble when you are indoors. 

This includes in:

  • pubs and restaurants
  • leisure and entertainment venues
  • personal care/close contact services
  • public buildings, such as libraries, community centres and halls

At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue, or each individual should check-in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed.

Restrictions on businesses and venues in Tier 2 areas include:

  • nightclubs and adult entertainment venues must remain closed
  • pubs and bars may not provide alcohol for consumption on the premises, unless with a substantial meal, so they are operating as a restaurant. They may remain open for takeaway services
  • other hospitality businesses – including cafes, restaurants and social clubs – can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. If they are a business which serves alcohol for consumption on the premises, they must be table service only. In cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports stadia, alcohol can be ordered at a bar to be consumed when seated in the auditorium or area where the screening/performance is taking place. This should be limited to only those with tickets. When it is to be consumed in the bar area itself, it must be part of a substantial meal and full table service must be provided
  • hospitality venues that do not serve alcohol may allow someone to order from the counter, but they must still consume their meal from a seat if eating in
  • hospitality venues must stop taking orders after 10 pm and must close between 11 pm and 5 am (with exceptions for airports, ports, the Folkestone international rail terminal, on public transport services and in motorway service areas, although these places cannot sell alcohol after 11 pm)
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10 pm, such as by take-away. After 11 pm, this must only be through delivery service or click-and-collect or drive-through.
  • businesses must not provide shared smoking equipment for use on the premises.

A full outline of Tier 2 regulations can be found on the government’s website.

Tier 3: Very High

Tier 3 was the highest tier until last week and was seen by many as a lockdown in all but name. With Tier 4 being introduced with its ‘stay home’ directive, Tier 3 seems more relaxed than it did a few days ago.

However, it is a big difference over Tier 2 because only takeaway is allowed and dine-in is forbidden so there’s no popping down the coffee shop to escape the monotony of your own four walls unless you don’t mind wandering the streets with your paper cup. You can order takeaway beer too, but you must not stay on any part of the premises to consume it. This was great in the summer and picnic hotspots sprung up around my town, but it’s less popular in December.

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.

Exemptions apply for the following settings:

Cafes and canteens at:

  • hospitals, care homes, or supported housing as part of extra care schemes
  • schools and providers of post-16 education and training, such as further education colleges
  • higher education accommodation, and at higher education providers (where there is no practical alternative for staff and students to obtain food and where alcohol is not served for consumption on the premises)
  • criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres
  • naval/military/air force or MoD facilities
  • workplace canteens (where there is no practical alternative and where alcohol is not served for consumption on the premises)

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 (with exceptions for motorway service areas, airports, seaports, the international terminal at Folkestone and public transport services although these places cannot sell alcohol after 11pm).

Businesses must not provide shared smoking equipment for use on the premises.

A full outline of Tier 3 regulations can be found on the government’s website.

Tier 4: Stay at Home

Tier 4 is lockdown, and comes with the same rules we experienced back in the Spring when COVID first came along.

For hospitality venues, the rules are the same as Tier 3, but other shops have to close and people have to stay at home aside from if they have to go to work, provide support for their bubble, exercise, shop and a handful of exemptions. Christmas shopping has, therefore, been cancelled as of Sunday 20th December.

A full outline of Tier 4 regulations can be found on the government’s website.

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