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Running a public house is a challenging career choice

Publicans must make sure their house is in order insurance-wise

Jul 2019


Running a public house is a challenging career choice, with latest figures showing pubs closing at a rate of one every 12 hours.  Add to this a difficult trading climate, and a number of situations that can catch a publican out, and it is a sector that definitely needs to get its house in order insurance-wise.

Some examples of the pitfalls that could wrong-foot a landlord include selling alcohol to underage customers, breaching food safety legislation and employing staff with no permissions to work in the UK.  Each of these can result in not just fines, but prison sentences too.  Cutting corners is an extremely unwise course of action, particularly when tougher sentencing guidelines have been introduced in recent years, to punish businesses putting others at risk.

It is important that any business involved in the hospitality sector has all areas of its business operation covered by relevant legal insurance protection, whether that relates to employee rights, health and safety issues, or food and fire safety. 

Pubs need to protect their staff and customers with robust risk assessments and safe systems of working.  This includes carrying out thorough fire safety risk assessments and ensuring that fire safety procedures are adhered to at all times.

Late last year, a pub landlord in Merseyside was jailed after illegally storing 33kg of fireworks in the cellar of his pub. If a fire had occurred, this could have resulted in a huge explosion and fire, potentially putting the lives of customers and employees at risk, as well as possibly damaging other nearby properties.

Landlord William Poston was prosecuted by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority when the explosives were discovered sitting next to combustible materials. He did not possess a licence for them and was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and given 200 hours of community service work to complete.

Employing a member of staff who is unable to work because of their immigration status can also spell trouble for pubs, even though in many cases this may have happened unwittingly.  Such a breach of the law can potentially result in a premise’s licence being revoked and a huge fine. 

Last year, a Chinese restaurant in Belfast was facing a £60k fine, for employing three illegal workers. A defence was obviously necessary, particularly because checks on employment status are reasonably easy to conduct.  The standard fine is £20,000 per worker and disqualification as a director is also a possibility, along with reputational damage should details be issued to the press.

Many publicans have found themselves in court for food safety breaches ranging from not tackling pest infestations and selling out-of-date food, to the operation of unhygienic food preparation areas. Pubs serving food need a robust food safety management system in place along with clear product labelling and high hygiene standards. Adequate staff training in food safety is also a must, to minimise risks.

Serving underage customers can lead to suspension of sales or an unlimited fine if caught. An effective ID strategy combined with staff training programmes and statutory notice displays can all help combat this problem.

Within this sector, health and safety advice, coupled with protections for legal expenses, liability and possibly also Directors & Officers and business interruption policies, are the foundations for a robust level of cover, accompanied by informed and expert input from a risk specialist. To find that specialist, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.

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