Does the new Government Guidance mean that you need to close your business?

On 23 March the government stepped up measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus by extending the requirement for many businesses including non-essential retail stores (excluding food markets) and hotels to close.

Takeaway and food delivery services to remain open

There is not a clear legal definition of a “non-essential” retail store but the Government has clarified that takeaway and food delivery services should remain open and operational.

Hotels to remain open for “permanent residents” 

Hotels may remain open for guests “who live in [the hotel] as interim abodes whilst their primary residence is unavailable”.

It may be difficult to work out who is using your hotel as their “interim abode” and those guests who are simply staying there on a temporary basis. There is no official definition however, you might draw a distinction between the concepts of an “interim” and “temporary” guest – the former being somebody residing at the hotel on a day-by-day basis and the latter being somebody with a defined check-in and check-out date. Temporary guests are more likely to be staying at the hotel for business or leisure purposes, whereas interim guests may be using the hotel more as permanent place of residence e.g. because their primary residence is unavailable or abroad.

Ultimately, what constitutes a “permanent resident” of a hotel will come down to the individual circumstances, as well as the view of each individual business and hotel industry itself. The Government has also provided guidance as to how to continue to operate a hotel with permanent residents as follows:

The following areas of the hotel must close and remain closed –

  • all bars in the hotel (there is no exception to this requirement);
  • any beauty salons and other retail concessions/offerings within the hotel;
  • any spa facilities within the hotel;
  • any fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure facilities within the hotel; and
  • any outdoor sports courts, gyms or similar at the hotel.

Hotels must continue to provide a standard of service that guests are entitled to receive, in line with contractual obligations. In addition, each hotel has a duty to protect its guests against unreasonable risk of physical harm and this prevails in spite of the current circumstances. This may mean that if you were to evict guests and they have no reasonable alternative accommodation they can move to, the hotel may be liable to the guests in negligence for any harm they suffer as a result.

Social distancing rules must continue to be observed and the hotel should ensure that residents and employees alike remain at least 2 metres apart from each other and minimise the duration of time they are in contact with each other.

For further information contact Leo Skinner

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.