Blog: A Chance to Reassess Regulation and Restrictions

April 17, 2020

The opportunities that will spring from the current crisis are manifold. Of course, no one of knows how this will play out as yet – some of the old ways will endure whilst others will not. Much will depend on the length of the crisis.

I would like to share a few early thoughts.

This is an excellent opportunity for some much-needed de-regulation. Our sector has been swamped with legislation and restrictions now for many years. Over my 30 year career in the sector the bar market has been seen as an easy source of revenue-raising by all governments whilst at the same time being subject to an increasing flow of controls on how operators trade – Late Night Levies; Assets of Community Value; restrictions on change of use of pubs to protect so called community uses – in areas where the community has clearly moved on from pub visits for community interaction; legislation on tied lease structures;  these are just a few examples of where government has decided it knows best and has chosen to fetter how operators run their businesses and how the property market adapts to changing market conditions.

The likelihood is that once we get to the other side there will be a need to stimulate the economy – possibly to a degree that none of us has ever witnessed before. There will be opportunities for entrepreneurs. Surely now will be the time to allow them the flexibility to create jobs, tax revenues and wealth with less legislative hurdles? We have already seen during the lockdown operators moving towards 100% delivery and takeaway operations from premises which technically don’t have the appropriate consents. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples.

I for one would like to see wholesale changes to the Use Classes Order going forward – it wasn’t fit for purpose before the crisis. The economy needs to able to move forward as swiftly as possible if living standards are to be protected. Much extraneous legislation and controls should surly now be suspended or removed – to protect our industry and enable society to recover.

There will be plenty of areas where the state will undoubtedly want, and need, to have more control and influence in the past – that is for certain. It would be nice if they would loosen up on other stuff in our industry.

The hospitality industry is going to have quite enough challenges adapting to a new trading environment – one where consumers will be very wary of socialising with strangers at close quarters – at least in the short term. The need for wholesale re-consideration of everything regarding relations with landowners is another area which is going to present challenges and opportunities for all market participants.