Lessons for the food and restaurant trade from the Fabric case

The high profile closure of Fabric, and recent resolution to enable it to re-open, may seem a far cry from the average retail food offering.

Much of it was! However, there are some important points to take on board, which are applicable more widely.

First of all, know your permitted hours and conditions. All those at management level should have a good grasp of these. One of the biggest own goals we see is when managers and key staff don’t even realise they’ve breached a condition, and are routinely doing so.

Do include an outline of regulatory obligations in staff training. This we would say is particularly important when it comes to making sure staff are aware of the key conditions on any premises licence. Ideally also keep a record of the fact that you undertook that training, which should be repeated at appropriate intervals.

Be aware that what feels like minor breaches will look very different, should you find yourself under the enforcement microscope. And what other operators do is not going to get you out of jail. Keep written records of incidents and visits. Incidents should in any case be logged. But more broadly memories distort and fade; written records are an important way to mitigate that.

If serious issues do arise, remember that the authorities may well take a tough line in their formal responses and go for what might seem like heavy penalties. That is not a criticism of them or their approach. They are themselves under intense pressures and certain circumstances mean that they may feel they have no choice, even if they don’t realistically expect to achieve the threatened result. Aiming high can also be a useful compliance tool.

If you do end up on the radar of enforcement, the rule of thumb is engage with the enforcement officers and authorities. And try to encourage dialogue. The protagonists (collectively) in the Fabric case could have saved a considerable amount of time cost and stress if they had taken that approach earlier. ‘Principled’ positions may sometimes feel like the correct approach, but it is frequently hard not to be left with a sense that the end result could have been achieved with a lot less pain.

So, there are some lessons from the Fabric case to commend to all.

This article first appeared in QuickBite magazine.

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.