COVID-19 – Business closures and restrictions

As part of the national emergency response to the spread of COVID-19 the government has introduced compulsory business closure or restriction rules for certain types of businesses.

London Borough trading standards services will have responsibility to enforce these along with other local authority regulatory teams and the police.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26th March 2020 at 1pm. The regulations are made under emergency provisions within the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

It is an offence to breach the regulations and prohibition notices can be issued to those who fail to comply. Breach of a notice, or other breaches of the regulations, could result in a fixed penalty notice being issued or in prosecution and a fine.

Where a limited company commits an offence its Directors, Managers or other similar persons can also be prosecuted.

London Trading Standards Operations Director Stephen Knight said: “We urge all businesses to follow the rules on closures for the protection of both the public and staff.  These rules are not optional and London authorities, along with the police, will be actively enforcing them where we find businesses refusing to comply.”

Do all businesses have to close?

No, it depends on the type of business, what is being provided or sold by that business and how it is being provided or sold.

  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close in respect of any sales of food and drink for consumption on their premises, but they may carry on selling takeaways or delivery only orders (subject to relevant licencing permissions etc.)
  • Certain shops selling non-essential goods or other listed businesses providing services must close, or cease to provide that service
  • Unless exempt other types of businesses selling or hiring goods must close to stop any shop sales or hire activities but can continue to make deliveries or provide services in response to orders received remotely (e.g via online, telephone or postal ordering)
  • Businesses providing holiday accommodation must cease to provide it unless it is for persons within certain prescribed categories
  • Other businesses and service providers can stay open, but government advice is that workers should work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so

Further details on the closures and restrictions are given below.

Businesses venues and service providers that must remain closed
  • Cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • Nightclubs
  • Bingo halls
  • Museums and galleries
  • Betting shops and casinos
  • Nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers
  • Massage parlours and spas
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys and skating rinks
  • Funfairs (outdoors or indoors) and amusement arcades
  • Playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms
  • Outdoor markets (except for stalls selling food)
  • Car showrooms
  • Auction Houses
Businesses that may remain open

The following are allowed to continue trading but should follow government guidelines on social distancing.

  • Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops
  • Off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries)
  • Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists
  • Newsagents
  • Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores
  • Petrol stations
  • Car repair and MOT services
  • Bicycle shops
  • Taxi or vehicle hire businesses
  • Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points
  • Post offices
  • Funeral directors
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
  • Pet shops and Veterinary surgeons
  • Agricultural supplies shop
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of a business included in this Part
  • Car parks
  • Public toilets

Any business which is not listed above and which sales or hires goods, or is not on the list of businesses venues and service providers that must close, can continue but, where applicable, must close to stop any shop sales or hire activities. They can continue to make deliveries or provide services in response to orders received remotely (e.g via online, telephone or postal ordering), however no persons should be admitted to their premises other than those required to carry on the fulfillment of deliveries and remote orders.

Premises which must cease selling food or drink for consumption on those premises
  • Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members’clubs
  • Cafes, including workplace canteens unless exempt
  • Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs
  • Public houses

Premises or parts of premises concerned with the provisions of takeaway or delivery only orders may remain open. Takeaways must not supply any food or drink for consumption on their premises.

Food or drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation as part of room service can continue to be provided.

Any area adjacent to the premises of the business where seating is made available for customers of the business (whether or not by the business itself) will be treated as part of the premises of that business.

Provision of holiday accommodation

Business consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, must cease during the emergency period but may keep any premises used in that business open to provide accommodation for any person who is:

  • Unable to return to their main residence
  • Using that accommodation as their main residence
  • Needing accommodation while moving house
  • Needing accommodation to attend a funeral

In addition such businesses can continue to:

  • Provide accommodation or support services for the homeless
  • Host blood donation sessions, or 
  • Be used for any purpose requested by the Secretary of State, or a local authority

To report concerns about breaches of the business closure requirements use our reporting tool.

For further guidance on the regulations and how they affect other venues, such as places of worship, visit GOV.UK