New rules for operation of shopping centres

As announced by the Prime Minister on 29 April 2020, on 4 May 2020, retail and service premises were reopened in commercial facilities with an area of over 2,000 m2 (shopping centres, retail parks and other commercial facilities not conducting predominant food activity) – shops and premises previously banned from operating (e.g., clothing and footwear shops) are now open.

The ban on conducting business activity continues to apply to physical activity zones (gyms, playgrounds, trampoline parks), game zones, cinemas and island displays. Food from catering establishments may be bought for take-away or delivery only.

Activities carried out in re-opened commercial premises will have to be subject to strict sanitary rules. The guidelines for the operation of the above-mentioned commercial facilities during the COVID-19 epidemic in Poland (“Guidelines”) were published on the official website of the Ministry of Development and are the result of consultations between the Ministry of Development and the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate.

The Guidelines provide for numerous new requirements – most of them relate to commercial facilities (their managers) and individual commercial or service establishments, but some are addressed directly to customers.

It appears that some of the restrictions imposed (such as the use of changing rooms or customers’ obligation to wear gloves) may have a negative impact on sales volumes in certain commercial facilities, e.g. clothing shops.

A recommendation to deny access to commercial facilities to a person who shows clear signs of disease may raise doubts – the Guidelines do not determine who specifically and how is to verify the signs of disease in individual persons entering the premises.

Irrespective of the above, it is worth noting that just before the completion of works on the Guidelines, the most controversial guidelines were finally abandoned, i.e. an obligatory temperature measurement of people visiting shopping malls by means of a thermal imaging camera and facilitated access to the facility for people who have the governmental ProteGO Safe application on their phones.

Guidelines for the operation of commercial facilities with an area exceeding 2,000 m2.

The Guidelines are divided into four areas:

  • communication and service space

The requirements for the communication space and services are as follows:

    • maintain a distance of at least two meters between customers;
    • covering the mouth and nose (with a mask or a scarf) by each person in the facility;
    • wearing disposable gloves (provided by the shop operator);
    • ensuring the possibility of purchasing masks in at least one shop or point within the commercial facility;
    • limiting the number of people in certain premises to one person per minimum 15 m2;
    • launching as many entrances as possible and removing barriers when passing through portals (also in toilets, if possible);
    • determining a maximum number of persons allowed in a lift (a maximum number of persons allowed in a certain lift divided by 3);
    • prohibition of leaflets, promotional events and other actions that may result in gatherings of people;
    • excluding from use relaxation and rest areas (including benches);
    • excluding from use changing room in shops or cleaning them after use by each customer;
    • prohibiting food consumption in the communication areas outside the designated food court area;
    • establishing strict rules for air exchange within the facility;
    • informing customers about sanitary requirements;
    • introduce cleaning and disinfection procedures for staff;
    • installing several disinfectant containers at all entrances, in toilets and at cash desks.
  • food courts

The following new requirements are established for food courts:

    • delimitation of a food court with a visible physical barrier;
    • restriction of a number of customers in a food court – a minimum of 15 m2 per person;
    • establishing with visible signs (stickers on the floor or standing signs) a minimum distance of 2 meters between persons queuing.

In the next phase of the so-called ” economy de-freezing”, the planned implementation date of which is currently unknown, it is to be allowed to have meals in the food court, with the observance of the following restrictions:

    • a maximum of three people may sit at one table, except for family members living together, provided that they came to the shopping mall together;
    • the distance between persons/groups having the meal must be at least 2 metres.
  • infrastructure

The following requirements have been introduced:

    • the possibility for customers to park their cars only on every second parking space;
    • exclusion from use of all types of fountains and playgrounds, as well as cloakrooms, clothes or objects storage facilities;
    • disinfection of toilets at least 4 times a day;
    • recommending to customers to limit the number of people in toilets;
    • daily, regular disinfection of common facilities (doors and lifts – at least twice a day), and tactile surfaces (e.g. door handles, handrails – at least every hour);
    • placing instructions on hygiene and sanitary requirements in toilets.
  • treatment of persons with infection symptoms

Procedures applicable in the case of detection of a person with infection symptoms, provide for the following requirements:

    • prohibition of using public places, including visits to shops by persons with COVID-19 infection symptoms;
    • recommendations to deny access to commercial facilities to a person who shows clear signs of a disease, such as persistent cough, breathing difficulties, malaise;
    • reporting an incident to the facility management in order to determine the area visited by a person with infection symptoms and a disinfection of that area.

The Guidelines also address safety of employees/operators of the commercial facilities. In this respect the Guidelines provide for:

    • organization of work that allows for the division of tasks of the commercial facility employees in such a way as to carry out remotely as much of such tasks as possible, also as part of a shift working time system and a rotation working time system;
    • workplace organization with regard given to the required social distance between employees (minimum 2 m);
    • ensuring that the cleaning services and employees in contact with customers have access to personal protective equipment and hand disinfection preparations;
    • providing ventilation of unconditioned rooms;
    • limiting direct contact between workers to the minimum necessitated by circumstances;
    • limiting direct contact with customers of persons over 60 years of age and the chronically ill;
    • instructing employees on procedures related to the occurrence of disturbing symptoms before they appear at a workplace;
    • creating procedures related to the occurrence of symptoms suggestive of infection in an employee, including disinfection of the premises where the employee was staying and isolating the employee from other persons.

How can we be of help?

Our Law Firm provides comprehensive advisory services for shopping malls and tenants, in particular with reference to lease agreements: support in negotiating and drafting contracts, preparing annexes and arrangements, advice on administrative and regulatory issues, legal analysis of agreements in terms of claims and court disputes. Our services include also monitoring and interpretation of the latest administrative and sanitary regulations.

We have many years of experience in representing shopping malls and tenants in all administrative/regulatory matters and in disputes: (a) we act as a mediator and an arbitrator, (b) we assist in the preparation of litigation strategy and arguments for a dispute, (c) we prepare pre-trial writings, (d) we assist in concluding agreements and settlements, (e) we represent parties in arbitration and litigation before courts of all instances.

Information contained in this publication is of general nature and does not relate to the situation of a particular company. Due to frequent changes in Polish legislation, we kindly request that you make sure that on the day you are reading this publication the information contained therein is still up to date. We suggest that you consult our advisers before making any decisions.