Licensing Law FAQs

What exactly is a Premises Licence?
A Premises Licence, is the permanent licence granted by a Local Licensing Authority for a specific location or premises that authorises the holder to carry on any Licensable Activities.
What are Licensable Activities?

All of the following are licensable activities:

  • the sale of alcohol
  • the supply of alcohol by a club to its members and guests
  • the provision of Regulated Entertainment (including plays, films, indoor sports, music and dancing) and
  • the sale of late-night refreshment (hot food and drink supplied between 11pm and 5am)
What does “Regulated Entertainment” mean?

Regulated Entertainment is one of the Licensable Activities that needs some form of licensing permission, such as a Premises LicenceClub Premises Certificate or Temporary Events Notice.

Regulated Entertainment includes:

  • plays
  • film exhibitions
  • indoor sporting events
  • boxing or wrestling exhibitions
  • live music including karaoke
  • recorded music
  • dancing by the public or performers
  • any entertainment similar to live music, recorded music or dancing by the public or performers

If they take place:

  • In the presence of a public audience for their entertainment
  • Exclusively to members of a qualifying club, or
  • In private and a charge is made with a view to profit.
Can you explain what the 4 Licensing Objectives are?

This is what every licence holder needs to know!  When a licence is in danger of being suspended or revoked, an inability by the operator to state the 4 licensing objectives (when asked by the Licensing Sub Committee) must be avoided.  Under the Licensing Act 2003, all Premises Licence and Variation applications must comply with four Licensing Objectives which are:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance
  • the protection of children from harm
Are there any Exemptions, where a Licence is not needed?

Yes, there are a few exemptions and these are:

  • Films for the purposes of advertisement, information, education. A film isn’t regarded as regulated entertainment if it is solely or mainly demonstrating a product, advertising goods or services or providing information, education or instruction.
  • Film exhibitions in museums and art galleries. A film isn’t regarded as regulated entertainment if it forms part of an exhibit put on show for any purposes of a museum or art gallery.
  • Music incidental to certain other activities. A performance of live music or the playing of recorded music is not regarded as regulated entertainment if it is incidental to some other activity that is not classed as regulated entertainment.
  • Use of television or radio receivers. You don’t need a licence for a live television or radio broadcast.
  • Religious services and places of worship. You don’t need a licence to provide any entertainment that is for the purposes of a religious meeting or service or at a place of public religious worship.
  • Garden fetes. You don’t need a licence to provide entertainment at a garden fete or a similar function or event unless the event is promoted with a view to applying any part of the proceeds for the purposes of private gain.
  • Morris dancing. You don‘t need a licence for a performance of Morris dancing or dancing of a similar nature or for live or recorded music that is an integral part of that performance.
What is a Club Premises Certificate?

A Club Premises Certificate is a certificate granted in respect of a premises occupied by and habitually used for the purposes of a club, and that club must satisfy a number of conditions.

Club Premises Certificates offer benefits to clubs over a Premises Licence, the absence of a requirement to specify a Designated Premises Supervisor, being the main one. Certificates are also exempt from some of the immediate closure powers available to the police.

Club Premises Certificates only allow activities to be carried on for club members and their guests – they cannot be used for events which are open to the general public, nor for the hire of the club facilities to non-members for private functions. If the club wishes to run such events, it would need a temporary events notice (for one-off events) or a Premises licence (for regular events) must be held.

How long will my Premises Licence Application or Variation Application take?

Each Premises Licence or Variation application is unique.  There are numerous requirements to adhere to, but generally, a licensing application should take between one to three months.  This however, is just an estimate.  Should it be necessary to engage with Responsible Authorities and/or Local Residents in the hope of avoiding the need for an appearance before the Licensing Sub Committee an application can take longer. 

What are the time limits that apply to a Premises Licence or Variation application?

Once the application has been submitted, either online or by post, a 28 day Public Consultation Period will take place. There is also a ten working day limit during which time the application must be advertised in a local newspaper. No longer than one working day after the application has been submitted, a notice on blue A4 paper must appear at the premises and must remain in place until the public consultation period ends. 

What is a Public Consultation Period?

The public and other interested parties are made aware of a licensing application in several different ways: the blue notice which appears at the premises where it can easily be seen by members of the public and an advertisement in the public notices section of a local newspaper. The application will also be listed with the relevant local authority, online. During the 28 day public consultation period members of the public, other business and affected persons (as well as the Responsible Authorities) can object to a licensing application (in writing) to the Local Licensing Authority. Objections are referred to as “relevant representations.”

How do I Object to a Licensing Application (“Relevant Representations”)?

The Licensing Act 2003 (the Act) enables thorough scrutiny of applications both by experts and by local residents and businesses.

Responsible Authorities, including the police, fire authority, trading standards, health and safety and environmental health are notified of every application for a new premises licence, or variation of existing licences, and have the opportunity to make representations to the Council about the effect of the application on the promotion of the four licensing objectives.

In addition, any person can make relevant representations about any application for a new licence or variations to a licence.

This includes the right to raise objections and gives the local community a greater say in licensing decisions.

Any representation, along with the objector’s details will normally be released to the applicant as part of the process, unless it is shown that there are exceptional circumstances where you believe that your details should not be released.

Relevant representations

For a representation to be relevant it must be one that is about the likely effect of the application on the promotion of the Licensing Objectives, or if a review, the impact of the premises licence on the objectives.

Any representation will not be relevant if the Council considers it to be vexatious or frivolous.

In the case of Minor Variations to existing licences that will not impact adversely on the Licensing Objectives, representations must be received within ten working days from the day after the council received the application. 

Representations received after that time cannot be considered.

In the case of a review of a premises licence following a closure order by a magistrates court, an interested party or a responsible authority has a period of seven days from when the licensing authority receives the order, in which to make representations about the review.

Who are the Responsible Authorities?

Anyone applying for premises licence or club premises certificate, is required by law to give a copy of the application to the ‘Responsible Authorities’. This is done automatically when applying online.

Responsible Authorities are the bodies entitled to comment on an application or raise an objection to granting a licence. These authorities’ titles may differ slightly from council to council (and may be amalgamated into slightly different teams) but generally are: 

  • Police
  • Fire and Rescue Service
  • Trading Standards
  • Environmental Health Service: (Health and Safety, Pollution, Litter, Noise Nuisance)
  • Planning Service
  • Children’s Services
  • Public Health NHS
What does “Designated Premises Supervisor” (DPS) mean?

Usually referred to as a DPS, the Designated Premises Supervisor is relevant only to premises where alcohol is sold.  Every premises that sells alcohol has to specify an individual to take responsibility for the day to day control of a premises and to authorise other staff members to sell alcohol. This person is known as the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) and must hold a Personal Licence.

If the Designated Premises Supervisor stops working at the premises, the holder of the Premises Licence will need to apply to specify a new individual as DPS.  Without a DPS specified on the licence, no alcohol can be sold on the premises.

When would you need a Temporary Events Notice?

If you wish to hold an ad-hoc event which involves Licensable Activities, you must apply to your Local Licensing Authority by giving a temporary event notice (TEN) before the event.  If the premises where the event is to be held is in an area which straddles or is governed by more than one local authority, notifications must be submitted to each authority.

How many Temporary Events Notices can you apply for each year?

You can get up to 5 TENs a year. If you already have a Personal Licence to sell alcohol, you can be given up to 50 TENs a year.

A single premises can have up to 15 TENs applied for in one year, as long as the total length of the events is not more than 21 days.

How much notice does a Temporary Events Notice need?

A “standard” Temporary Events Notice needs to be sent to the Local Licensing Authority at least clear 10 working days before the proposed event. The 10 working days does not include the event start day itself, nor the day that the notice was submitted. 

Late notices – Local Licensing Authorities can accept a temporary event notice submitted between five and nine working days before the event. Again, this does not include the event start date itself, nor the day that the notice was submitted. 

What is a Minor Variation?

A minor variation application is a fast-track procedure allows for small changes to be made without the need to submit a full Variation Application. It is intended to be a simplified process for straightforward changes where there are no objections.

A subjective test is applied by the local authority licensing officer: will this change undermine the 4 Licensing Objectives?

The licence holder should submit an application to the Local Licensing Authority, who then have a 15-day period to consider if there is likely to be any impact on the licensing objectives, consulting with the Responsible Authorities.

Minor variations generally fall into these categories:

  • minor changes to the structure or layout of the premises
  • small adjustments to licensing hours (but cannot be used to extend hours for the sale or supply of alcohol)
  • the removal of out of date, irrelevant or unenforceable conditions or the addition of volunteered conditions
  • the addition of certain licensable activities (for example, adding the live music activity to a premises licence that is already providing other licensable activities at that time or is already open)

The Home Office has provided some information on Minor Variations, which can be downloaded here.

What is the difference between a Minor Variation and a Premises Licence Variation?

Minor Variations

These are changes to the licence that do not affect the Licensing Objectives such as a change of Designated Premises Supervisor or small changes to the structure or layout of the premises.

Major Variations

These are big changes that would impact on the licence such as an increase in the hours (or an increase in the area where alcohol is sold and consumed).  It also includes major structural changes to the premises’ licensed areas.

What does “Provisional Statement” mean?

This is an ‘interim’ statement as regards the provision of a Premises Licence where the premises has not yet been built. A provisional statement gives some certainty as to the future ability of the premises to be licensed

What are the time limits that apply to a Premises Licence or Variation application?

Once the application has been submitted, either online or by post, a 28 day public consultation period will take place. There is also a ten working day limit during which time the application must be advertised in a local newspaper. No longer than one working day after the application has been submitted, a notice on blue A4 paper must appear at the premises for a period of 28 days (ending when the public consultation period ends).  During the 28 day public consultation period, the Responsible Authorities and members of the public can object to (“make representations” about) the application. 

What is Late Night Refreshment?

Late night refreshment is a licensable activity and covers the supply of hot food or hot drink to the public, for consumption on or off the premises, between 11pm and 5am.

What is an Operating Schedule?

An Operating Schedule is an important part of any application for a Premises Licence, or a Club Premises Certificate. It explains how you propose to operate and the steps that you will take to promote the four Licensing Objectives.  The Operating Schedule is the trickiest part of a licensing application for the unwary.  It should include all information necessary to allow any Responsible Authority or interested party to assess whether adequate steps are being taken to address the four Licensing Objectives.

How long do I have to appeal a Licensing Decision?

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a licensing hearing where you were the applicant or a party to the hearing (someone who raised a relevant representation), you can appeal through the courts against the decision of the Licensing Authority. An appeal must be lodged with the correct Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of a licence holder or applicant being given notice of the decision of the Local Licensing Authority.

In cases of new or variation applications the decision of the Licensing Committee will stand pending the outcome of any appeal. In cases of review applications the decision of the Licensing Committee will not be implemented until the outcome of any appeal.

What is a Trading Standards Test Purchase?

The most common test purchase faced by licensed premises relates to “underage sales” of alcohol (to young people who are under the age of 18). This involves an undercover visit to purchase alcohol by a young person who looks under the age of 18.  Trading standards are looking for a request of proof of age from the customer, to be made by the shop or venue supplying the alcohol.  Most venues, supermarkets and off-licences operate Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 proof of age schemes and the local authority wants to ensure these are being put into practice. One of the four licensing objectives is “protection of children from harm.”   The sale of alcohol to young people is one of the most common reasons why local authorities have revoked or suspended licences.

How does Challenge 25 work?

Challenge 25 is a scheme that encourages anyone who is over 18 but looks under 25 to carry acceptable ID when they want to buy alcohol. Challenge 25 builds on the Challenge 21 campaign introduced by the British Beer and Pub Association in 2005, who represent the beer and pub sector.  Having a Challenge 21 or 25 scheme at your venue is a way to ensure you are meeting the protection of children from harm Licensing Objective. One Mandatory Condition on every Premises Licence is that there must be a policy in relation to underage sales in place. It does not specify what form this policy must take but the accepted industry standard scheme is now Challenge 21 or 25. The condition means having that policy in place and being able to show that staff are being trained on how to operate it. 

Can you explain what a Personal Licence is?

A Personal Licence is a portable licence issued to an individual which allows them to authorise sales of alcohol from any premises that holds a Premises Licence.

Do I need a Personal Licence?

Yes, if you want to be a Designated Premises Supervisor.   You do not need to have a personal licence to be employed in a pub or other business that sells alcohol. However, premises which are licensed to sell alcohol must have a Designated Premises Supervisor, who holds a Personal Licence.  There is no such requirement for the supply of alcohol in a members’ club.

How do I get a Personal Licence?

In order to obtain a Personal Licence; applicants must be 18 years of age or above and will need a Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders Qualification Certificate.  Local authorities supply Personal Licence application forms, and you will also need a Disclosure and Barring Service check, amongst other things such as two passport photos certified as true likeness, and payment of the local licensing authority’s fee (currently £37). 

All of the above must be submitted to the local Council (where the applicant lives) in order to apply for the Licence to sell alcohol.

How long does my Personal Licence last?

A Personal Licence used to have to be renewed every ten years, but as from 1 April 2015 it is no longer necessary to renew a Persona Licence.  Section 115 of the Licensing Act 2003 has been amended by section 69 of the Deregulation Act 2015, removing the requirement to renew Personal Licences.

A Personal Licence is valid from the date it was issued and remains portable throughout England and Wales.  Although there is no need for renewal, personal licence holders must inform their Local Licensing Authority of any change of name or address or of any relevant or foreign offence.  In this case the Local Licensing Authority is the council that issued the personal licence no matter where you move house to, even if it is abroad.  This is now a mandatory requirement and the fee charged by the local authority is currently £10.50.

What are the Mandatory Conditions that I can expect to see on my Premises Licence?

The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Conditions) order 2014 banned the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT.

The remaining mandatory conditions are set out in the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) (Amendment) Order 2014 and are:

  • a ban on irresponsible promotions
  • mandatory provision of free potable (drinking) water
  • adoption of an age verification policy
  • the mandatory provision of smaller measures
What is the Late Night Levy?

The Late Night Levy allows councils to raise revenue by charging every premises which is authorised to sell alcohol between midnight and 6am.  The monies raised are used for the costs of policing in the area as it is thought that there can be a direct correlation between drinking, anti-social behaviour and crime.

If the Late Night Levy applies in your local authority, you hold a Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate and you sell alcohol between 1 minute past midnight and 6am, on one or more days in a year, you’ll be required to pay an additional annual fee.

Changes are afoot laid out in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, yet in 2019 these changes have not yet come into force. The changes should provide greater flexibility allowing councils to apply the charge only to premises in specific areas of the local authority, rather than the current blanket on the whole area.  Also it should provide for councils to be able to charge Late Night Refreshment outlets e.g. late night takeaways such as local pizza, fish and chip and kebab shops.

Can I have Live Music at my Licensed Premises?

Yes, as well as the exemptions listed here, there has been various “de-regulation” to Regulated Entertainment which now means you do not need a licence for:

  • Unamplified performance of live music at any place between the hours of 8am and 11pm.
  • A performance of live music or playing of recorded music between 8am and 11pm at a premises that is licensed to sell alcohol on the premises before an audience of no more than 500 people.
  • A performance of amplified live music at a workplace if it takes place between 8am and 11pm before an audience of no more than 500 people.

You will still need to be aware of noise nuisance particularly if premises are in a residential area. Your Local Licensing Authority or any affected relevant party (such as a local resident) can apply for a review of your Premises Licence in the event of noise nuisance from live music. Sanctions can include removing the exemption in relation to your premises. 

What is my Local Licensing Authority’s role?

Since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force on 24 November 2005 licensing was taken away from the magistrate’s courts and responsibility given to the local authority for issuing and reviewing licences. Each local authority is required to establish a Licensing Committee to carry out the responsibilities under the act.  A Licensing Authority must have a good working knowledge of the Licensing Act 2003 as interpreted by the courts, the relevant regulations, the statutory guidance and their own statements of licensing policy. It must also observe and follow the rules of natural justice; particularly in relation to hearings where it must act fairly, impartially and without any bias.  

What are the duties and responsibilities of a Licensing Committee?

The duties and responsibilities of a Licensing Committee consist of safeguarding the 4 Licensing Objectives. Details of the standards it will apply can be found in the Local Licensing Authority’s licensing policy, which is usually available to download online. 

Section 6(1) of the Licensing Act 2003 states a Licensing Authority must establish a Licensing Committee consisting of at least 10 – 15 members.

Section 9(1) of the Act states a Licensing Committee may establish one of more Sub Committees consisting of 3 members of the Licensing Committee.

What is the purpose of a Licensing Sub Committee?

To consider and determine applications in respect the grant, renewal, variation or transfer of any general safety certificate in respect of a sports stadium or regulated stands:

  • street trading and markets
  • film classification
  • any other licensing responsibilities of the authority created by statute and delegated to the committee.

The above is intended as a general guide only and cannot be relied upon for specific legal advice. Please refer any specific questions to us by e-mail  or telephone Maria Guida on 01276 854 935.  Alternatively please fill out our Contact Form. 

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