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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice, including help if you are struggling financially

Getting a licence or changing a licence to trade differently

See details on the emergency regulations requiring the closure of many businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

These notes and reminders are particularly aimed at licensed premises. See more details about the range of activities that usually need a licence.

This page will be updated as changes, hopefully relaxations, to the restrictions are made by Government and as we understand what it is our local licence holders need to know to help them trade safely and within the law.

Guidance for pubs, cafes and restaurants

Pubs, cafes and restaurants are now allowed to open up as long as they are Covid Secure. Premises may still operate by offering a takeaway/delivery service in addition to having some people on the premises. See more details on how to achieve this safely and legally.

Pubs that choose to need to make sure they are operating safely and following government guidance, but licensed premises should note:

  • risk assessments must be completed and available
  • licence holders are encouraged to prepare a risk assessment to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that footways are not blocked by customers
  • there can be no loud music, singing, dancing or shouting
  • table service should be the preferred method of service
  • it is your responsibility to manage the queues at your premises
  • you must consider the licensing objectives of preventing crime and disorder, prevention of public nuisance, public safety and the protection of children from harm
  • put in place measures to enable staff to work in a safe environment with suitable protective equipment and safety measures. See more details on safe working environments

The Government has issued new enforcement powers to enable local authorities, supported by the police, to take action to deal with non-compliance with directions to close. Other powers may become available to deal with other unacceptable trading practices. Licensed premises who are found to be operating illegally may also be subject to review of their licence. 

Keeping takeaway and delivery services open and operational

People can now enter premises, to eat and drink inside they will probably have to be seated at a table to be served. Take away and delivery services may continue, however open air dining is to be encouraged.

Businesses are encouraged to take orders online or by telephone, and businesses can now provide seating areas, indoors or outdoors, for customers to consume food and drink on. Ordering in advance is strongly encouraged to avoid waiting and queues, especially in busy areas.

Planning regulation has been changed to enable restaurants, cafés and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so, licence permitting.

Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services can only offer alcoholic beverages if their licence allows off sales.

Dorset Council would encourage operators whose premises have toilet facilities to make these available for customers to use, providing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is in place as well as hygiene measures and adherence to social distancing guidelines. See further guidance.

Trading from the front of your premises

You can set up a stall directly in front of your shop without any extra permission. If you wish to trade in an area that is not directly in front of your premises then you will need a street trading consent in Wimborne, Weymouth, Wareham, Swanage and Beaminster. In all other areas you would need consent from Highways to block the footway. See details for Street Trading Consents.

If you are planning on putting tables and chairs at the front of your premises, after the regulations are relaxed, then you will need a permit. All permits will be issued by Highways and will take into account any road closures or highways work.

Questions about your licence can be directed to

Frequently asked questions

Can I start a food delivery business using my premises licence?

The government recently announced emergency plans to relax planning laws to allow bars, restaurants and other leisure venues to start food deliveries:

  • relaxation of planning measures will apply for a limited period
  • the measures will apply to hot food and drinks
  • serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws

What does your premises licence allow you to do?

We are still waiting for more information from the government, but based on what we know from the announcement:

  1. the delivery of food is not licensable under the Licensing Act 2003. It is therefore open to businesses to start food delivery services immediately from a licensing perspective
  2. however, note that hot food and beverage delivered between 23:00 and 05:00 will require a Late Night Refreshment Licence
  3. alcohol deliveries cannot be included in your food deliveries unless you have an off sales licence for alcohol
  4. you must ensure you have adequate age verification procedures in place for deliveries that include alcohol

I need to postpone my event, will my licence be affected?

If you need to postpone your event due to the Covid-19 outbreak, you need to check your licence very carefully. Most premises licenses will be issued in perpetuity and can therefore be used at any time in the future. Some premises licences however may be time limited. If your premises licence is time limited, it cannot be relied on for different dates.

You can check if your premises licence is time limited. On the front page of your licence please refer to the section that read “Where the licence is time limited the dates”.

Finally, if you submitted a Temporary Events Notice for your event, you cannot transfer this to different dates. You will need to submit a new Temporary Events Notice.

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