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08 April 2020

Marinas, ports and harbours – Closed for business?

Operators and owners of marinas are debating whether they were able to continue operating their marinas (albeit in a reduced capacity) following the government’s initial announcement to restrict certain commercial activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Health Protection (coronavirus, Business Closure) Regulations 21 March 2020 (the Business Closure Regulations) initially required all businesses, providing the following services, to immediately close their premises and cease selling food and drink during the relevant period:

  • restaurants, dining rooms in hotels or members clubs;
  • cafes;
  • workplace canteens;
  • bars (including bars in hotels and members clubs); and
  • public houses.

The government has since issued further restrictions, in addition to the Business Closure Regulations, under the Health Protection (coronavirus, restrictions) Regulations 26 March 2020 (the Restrictions Regulations). The Restrictions Regulations require all businesses offering goods for sale or hire in a shop (other than business that fall within one of the limited exceptions) to cease its operations or provide its service through a website, by telephone or post.

Further, the Restriction Regulations also require that business premises which are not required to carry out its business or its services (through a website, telephone or post) to be closed. Businesses must also cease to allow any person to enter its premises who is not specifically required to carry out its business or provide its services.

If a business fails to comply with the regulations they could find themselves liable on summary conviction for a fine. Whilst the fine under the applicable regulations is important to consider, so is the potential negative publicity that may be attached to the business. An example being Sports Direct who originally advised that they would remain open; although given the particularly negative publicity they received, the company quickly u-turned on this decision.

We therefore consider that businesses operating ports, marinas and harbours are able to remain open and operational so long as they strictly comply with the regulations. However, as the current situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is still evolving, this may change in the coming weeks and months. Businesses are encouraged to seek bespoke legal advice on how to comply with these and any future regulations.

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