Aberdeen,
19
August
2020
|
11:32
Europe/Amsterdam

Aberdeen City Council Licensing Board welcomes new national Covid-19 guidance for the hospitality sector

Aberdeen City Council Licensing Board has welcomed the statutory Covid-19 hospitality sector guidance published on Friday 14 August for all businesses in Scotland. 

The Council has been at the forefront of engagement with licensees with a view to working in partnership with the sector to ensure the safe reopening of premises once local restrictions are lifted.  

The new guidance comes in the wake of Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s Licensing Convener, chairing a seminar with bar and restaurant owners, NHS Grampian, Police Scotland and Council officers last week to revisit roles, responsibilities and limitations placed upon each body by statutory guidance and legislation.  

At the meeting it was explained that, in line with other local authorities, Aberdeen City Council had received additional guidance from the Scottish Government.

Councillor Boulton, said: “We have been proactive in working with local hospitality businesses and had a very productive meeting in which we were able to listen to concerns and clarify our position with regard to statutory guidance and particularly occasional licences.

The Scottish Government guidance encourages Boards to be flexible to allow premises to open and for all applications to be considered sensitively with no unnecessary hurdles having to be overcome prior to the granting of an occasional licence. To that end, with the support and co-operation of Police Scotland and the Licensing Standards Officers, we have been able to reduce the turnaround time for applications from 28 days to 7 days on average, whilst maintaining the same level of scrutiny for each application.

“The bottom line however is that legislation places limitations on what we as a Licensing Board can do in certain situations.”  

The Board were also proactive in contributing to an 11-page guidance booklet outlining what was expected of an application for an Occasional Licence. Although not strictly part of the licensing process, the need for building warrant for temporary structures was also waived by the Scottish Government until 30 September 2020.

The legislation is clear on the application process for Occasional Licences. Applications must be copied to Police Scotland and the Licensing Standards Officers.

Applications are also advertised on the Board’s website at:

https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/services/business-and-licensing/licences-and-permits/licensing-board-adverts-and-agendas

If no objections or representations are received, then the legislation states that the application must be granted, the Board does not have any discretion. Accordingly, the power to grant applications that receive no valid representations or objections is delegated to officers to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy. To be valid, any objection or representation requires to relate to the licensing objectives. The Board cannot, for example, refuse an application on the grounds it might have a detrimental impact on an existing licensed premises or simply based on the size of the premises.”

The Board are also pleased to note that the trade has formed a Hospitality Together Group following last week’s meeting and would encourage all operators of licensed premises to work collaboratively to ensure standards are maintained at a high level across the city and that the hospitality trade continues to contribute positively to both the city centre experience and the operation of the city as a whole.

Councillor Boulton added: “The updated guidance will prove helpful in that it is more stringent and gives the Council, partner bodies and local businesses a blueprint with which we can all work in cooperation to help avoid a repeat of the local restrictions that have unfortunately resulted in the closure of our bars and restaurants for the last couple of weeks.”  

The new guidance takes immediate effect and includes: 

  • The mandatory recording of customer/visitor contact details by businesses.  
  • Mandatory full risk assessments by licence holders and persons running a hospitality business and implementation of outcomes to protect staff and customers. 
  • More stringent noise control including muted televisions and no music being played. 
  • Queues not being allowed to form inside premises and steps should be taken to avoid queues outside the business.  

Much existing guidance will remain in place such as those relating to face coverings, 1metre distancing, handwashing and toilet facilities, ventilation, enhanced cleaning regimes, table service and limits on household numbers allowed in groups.  

The guidance outlines the enforcement powers that both Police Scotland and local authorities have to enforce the restrictions on businesses, imposed by the Regulations. The Scottish Government is also working with local authorities to “strengthen measures that will empower enforcement officials to target risky or non-compliant practices in order to swiftly identity and rectify any issues”.  

The Scottish Government guidance can be viewed here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tourism-and-hospitality-sector-guidance/pages/hospitality-statutory-guidance/