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Trading safely

Find out how to trade safely and legally as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
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While the battle against coronavirus may be turning a corner, we know that economic conditions remain tough. As restrictions ease, the Council is delivering a package of support to businesses. It includes guidance, promotion and grants to help shops and venues welcome customers back.

Reopening check list

You can use the below check list to make sure you are prepared to trade safely when you reopen.

My business has:

  1. Carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  2. A clearly displayed a NHS track and trace QR code
  3. a system in place for recording contact details of those without the app
  4. Checked any business changes respect our planning and licensing requirements
  5. Assessed and respected the impact any business changes may have on neighbours
  6. Set up workplace testing or registered for at home tests for employees
  7. Set up social distancing measures, including thinking through the queuing system
  8. increased cleaning and disinfecting
  9. displayed social-distancing posters
  10. increased ventilation in the premises

For more information or support on any of these matters, please email economyandpartnerships@lewisham.gov.uk

Which businesses can open?

From 17 May, businesses in the following sectors can reopen:

  • indoor hospitality with table service only
  • indoor entertainment and visitor attractions including cinemas, theatres, bingo halls and
    bowling alleys
  • indoor and outdoor attractions will also reopen such as museums, galleries and soft play centres

This is in addition to the following businesses which were allowed to reopen from 12 April:

  • personal care premises
  • indoor leisure facilities
  • most outdoor attractions and settings
  • self-contained accommodation

You can find a full list of which businesses can open and which must remain closed on the Government’s website.

NHS track and trace and QR codes

It is now a legal requirement for businesses in the following sectors to ensure all visitors to their venues check in:

  • hospitality
  • leisure and tourism
  • close contact services (e.g. hairdressers, barbers and nail salons)

If your business in these sectors must display the official NHS QR code poster in an obvious and accessible place to allow customers and visitors to ‘check in’ using the NHS COVID-19 app.

Visitors who do not have the app, will need to provide their name and number instead. If there is a group, each person in that group over the age of 16 must check in. You are within your rights to deny entry to anybody who refuses to.

Please be advised that businesses not following these rules may face financial penalties. 

Previously, only one member of a group needed to check in or provide contact details. Now each individual must do so.

You can find more detailed guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors on the Government’s website.

Create an NHS QR code poster

You can create a QR code poster on the Government’s website. If you have more than one venue, you will need to create a separate QR code for each location.

If you previously registered for a QR code, you will automatically get a new QR code

COVID-19 risk assessment

Every business has a legal duty to protect their staff, customers and others affected by their work activities from the risk of coronavirus.

You must complete a COVID-19 risk assessment to make sure your business is safe.

You can find guidance on conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment on the Health and Safety Executive’s website.


To protect your staff and customers when you reopen, it is important that you  manage and keep all water systems safe, even while buildings are closed.

Find out how to control Legionella.

Social distancing advice

We know you are working hard to prioritise the health and safety of your customers and staff as you reopen. Ensuring you have adequate measures in place will reassure visitors so they are confident that your business is COVID-19 secure and that their health and safety is important to you.

Some tips to keep your staff and customers safe:

  • maintain two-metre social distance or one-metre where two isn’t possible and there are other safety measure in place such as face coverings or screens.
  • place hand sanitiser at entry and exit points
  • ventilate your building – open trickle vents, windows and doors where possible.

For the latest advice on social distancing, visit the Government’s website.

Queue management

It is important that you manage any queues for your premises, both inside and outside.

Consider the following before opening:

  • You could avoid queues by using reservations and encouraging customers to come back later, if queues begin to form.
  • Where possible, you should use one-way flow systems.
  • Customers must stay two-metres apart and two and a half metres of pavement should be left for pedestrians.
  • Queue spaces should not be positioned near live traffic where possible. Queueing must not take place on the road.
  • Make sure there is always access for emergency services.
  • Consider those with (hidden) disabilities
  • If your premises is near a school, make sure you don't obstruct the areas where pupils and their guardians need to queue.

Tips for managing your queue:

  • Monitor capacity and queue time so you can keep customers informed and manage expectations.
  • Use clear signage so customers understand the system and know what to expect once inside.

Downloadable posters

COVID-19 alert poster (PDF)

Sector specific guidance

COVID-19 tests for employees

As workplaces reopen, regular testing is even more important in the fight against COVID-19. You can get tested at a rapid test centre in Lewisham, or at work if you signed up for employee testing, alternatively you can pick up test kits at a local collection point or order them online.

Find out how to get a COVID-19 test if you don't have symptoms.

If any of your employees are showing COVID-19 symptoms they must stay at home and get a symptomatic test for COVID-19.

Changing the way you operate

If you are thinking about making changes to how your business normally operates, you need to check whether you have any existing restrictions. These will normally be part of your planning permission or your licence.

The planning system can be complex, the government has introduced a series of measures to support businesses. We offer a range of planning advice services to assist you. You should also check whether your business is located in a conservation area or is a listed building.

You should always try to speak to your neighbours before making any changes and be mindful of any impact on them.

Use of outside space

The Government has introduced a new fast track pavement licence to support hospitality businesses to operate safely whilst social distancing measures are still in place. Businesses such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars can apply for a pavement licence, permitting them to place removable tables and chairs on pavements adjacent to their premises to sell or serve food or drink

Apply for a pavement license

If you are a business that would like to display or sell products outside your premises that are not for consumption, you will need to apply for a street trading licence

Apply for a street trading (forecourt) license

Extending opening hours

If you are considering extending your opening hours, you should first check whether there is an existing licence or planning permission restriction. If there is an existing opening restriction in place, you should get planning advice from us before extending your opening hours.

You can only use outdoor space from 9am to 10pm, regardless of your operating hours.

Extended hours in residential areas are more likely to be successful if noisy activities are kept to a minimum during early or late operating hours. Be mindful of the disturbance that flues can cause. 

Changes to your shopfront

Any changes to your shop front, including awnings and canopies, are likely to require planning permission. Changes should be discussed with our planning service in advance of any physical changes being made.

Find out more about our planning advice services.

Marquees and tents (needs visual approach)

The normal 28 day restrictions on the use of temporary structures have been waived. This allows for the continuous use of tents or marquees in 2021 for outdoor seating areas, where food or drink is served.

It is important to ensure that your structure is safe, does not impact your neighbours and follows COVID-19 guidance:

  • Pegs and tensioning lines should be highly visible and positioned so as not to cause trips or falls. Pegs should have simple protective covers.
  • Structures must not interfere with, or impede, public access within or around the site, please ensure there is at least 1.2m of clear access for pedestrians
  • Social distancing measures should be observed. This means at least 2 metres between tables or at least 1 metre with mitigation e.g. screens, or customers seated back to back or side to side.
  • Please ensure that there is adequate means of escape in case of fire.
  • In order to minimise impact, structures should be set back from the boundary of the property, as far as is practicable.
  • Do not use structures with a height of more than 3m without discussing it with the Planning team first.
  • Structures should be “non-substantially enclosed”. It means if a structure has a roof then at least half of its sides (or walls) must be open and should not include doors, windows or any other fittings that can be opened or shut.
  • Please email the details of your temporary structure to Planning@lewisham.gov.uk so that we can ensure the Planning Enforcement team do not bother you unnecessarily.

Keeping our streets tidy

If your business is trading on the pavement you must make sure:

  • rubbish is regularly removed (food and drink remnants, spillages, bottles, cans, wrappers etc.)
  • tables or furniture are regularly cleaned
  • tables or furniture are removed every evening
  • the pavement is washed down every evening to remove food debris or any spillages.

Financial support

Your business could be eligible for financial support, to help you transition out of lockdown safely and successfully. We currently have the following grant scheme available:

Restart Grants

Restart Grants support the recovery of the high street as national restrictions are lifted and replace the Local Restrictions Support Grants. You are only eligible if you hold a Lewisham Council business rates account.

Read more about the Restart Grant.

Supporting business to reopen webinars

Our business webinars are hosted in partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses and the South East London Chamber of Commerce. They are a chance for local business owners to connect with council officers and have their questions about reopening answered. Subjects covered include licensing, planning, grants and COVID-safety.

We will update this page as soon as we have details of the next webinar. Please remember to check back.

Further help and advice

Do you need further help or advice with reopening your business after lockdown? If the information you are looking for is not covered on this page, you are welcome to email us and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as is possible. 

Setting up a new business

The pandemic has forced many people to rethink their careers. If you have just set up a new business or are considering starting a business in Lewisham, here’s what you should consider.

Licenses and street trading

Find information about which activities require a license and how to apply for one.

Food businesses

By law you must register premises being used for food businesses. This includes market stalls, delivery vehicles and other moveable structures. Find out more about registering your food business.

You also have a responsibility to protect the health of your customers. Find out about food safety, hygiene and standards.

You can find guidance on starting a food business from home on the Food Standards Agency website.

Help and support

Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) is programme to help entrepreneurs gain the skills, information and know-how to build a viable business. Find out more about SiLL and the help you can get setting up a new business.

The complete business reference adviser (COBRA) is a free and extensive resource that’s perfect for anyone starting a business or running a small business. Find out more about COBRA.