Refreshment – The new toilet law – a real inconvenience?
28 July 2016
The recent High Court ruling over two Greggs stores could see even the smallest of coffee shops and bakeries having to provide customer toilet facilities.
Until recently the well known ‘predominant type of trade’ rule required that only establishments with 10 or more seats were required to provide facilities. The latest round in a battle between Hull City Council and Newcastle City Council, the Department for Innovation and Skills and Greggs could change all of this. With the potential to affect up to 21,500 takeaways and 5,230 coffee shops in the UK this decision could have far reaching implications.
Newcastle argued that as Greggs main business was takeaway and had less than 10 seats there was no need for customer toilets. Hull argued that by not installing toilets Greggs was being given an ‘unlawful and unfair’ commercial advantage over competitors. In reaching his decision HHJ Kerr found in favour of Hull City Council stating that the advice given by Newcastle was ‘flawed’. Leave to appeal was given and an appeal has been lodged.
Hull may now serve notices on the two stores requiring that toilet facilities be provided and should that not be complied with prosecution could follow.
This decision clearly has far reaching implications for food and drink outlets as many Local Authorities have up until now incorporated the 10-seat threshold and the ‘predominant business’ test into their own guidance. If the ruling sets a precedent as many as 21,500 takeaways and 5,230 coffee shops across the UK – the vast majority of which are small independent businesses – could be affected with potentially dire consequences. Raymond Martin, Director of the British Toilet Association, says “Most of these are not going to be able to provide a toilet. Many would be forced to close down.”
While it is hoped that any appeal by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will clarify what facilities a food or drink outlet is required to provide, anyone considering opening an outlet should consult with their Local Authority first and carry out extensive due diligence. It is anticipated that Local Authorities will revise the guidance that they issue and an increase in the number of notices served is expected as a direct result of this ruling. If a notice is served legal advice should be sought immediately as the consequences for failing to comply with a notice are serious, particularly for the owners of an unincorporated businesses where criminal proceedings will be brought against them personally.
The content of this article is for general information only. For further information regarding the provision of bathroom facilities, please contact Julie Gowland or a member of Birketts’ Food Production and Processing Team. Law covered as at July 2016.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at July 2016.