City Corporation clamps down on mixed-household Christmas parties amid rising Covid cases


Square Mile pubs and restaurants are being told they will be fined for allowing mixed-household Christmas parties in a tough clampdown by the City of London Corporation.

The Square Mile’s governing body issued the warning as London faces the threat of moving into Tier 3: Very High alert, as coronavirus cases rise across the capital.

City Corporation Licensing Team and Environmental Health Officers are visiting the venues to check they are following Covid-secure rules, and will issue fixed penalty notices of up to £4,000 to premises breaking the regulations.

This includes those that host Christmas parties and get togethers for groups of mixed households, which are not allowed under the Tier 2: High Alert restrictions.

The action follows months of dialogue between Licensing Team and Environmental Health Officers, City of London Police and bars and restaurants in the City to ensure they are Covid-secure and abiding by the appropriate regulations.

Guidance has also been issued to businesses across the Square Mile, and as of 10 December no fines have been issued as there has been a good level of compliance.

Government guidance for Tier 2: High Alert states you can only meet socially with friends and family indoors who you either live with or have formed a support bubble with, unless a legal exemption applies. ‘Indoors’ means any indoor setting, including indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.

Licensing Committee Chairman Sophie Fernandes said: “This is an important season for businesses in hospitality and I understand the immense impact this year has had on the industry already.

“Whilst fines are usually issued as a last resort for non-compliance with the regulations, we cannot allow repeated breaches by a minority of the industry to push the City and wider London into Tier 3 restrictions.

“If premises have any doubts or questions over the regulations, I urge them to contact the City Licensing Team for advice so we can work together to prevent another devastating blow to the industry.”

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Venues must also abide by a number of other restrictions, including:

  • 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 take-away services;
  • hospitality venues must stop taking orders after 10pm and must close between 11pm and 5am (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 11pm);
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm, such as by take-away. After 11pm, 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;
  • business meetings should be ‘reasonably necessary’.

City of London Police Temporary Commander David Evans said: “As part of the City of London Police’s Christmas campaign, officers will be carrying out proactive patrols during December to ensure the public and businesses are following the current restrictions, both for their safety and the safety of others, and so that everyone has a safe and enjoyable festive season in the City.

“Officers will be acting in accordance with the national policing four Es approach,  and will engage, explain and encourage compliance in the first instance, and only resort to enforcement of the Tier 2 legislation where absolutely necessary.”

Research by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has shown that hospitality venues are a significant risk for transmission of Covid-19.

The police can take action against those who meet in groups, including breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines. People can be given a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for each further offence up to £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

Data from Public Health England shows cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across London, with the City of London registering 166 total cases as of 4 December.

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