What is The Licensing Act 2003?

In the UK the Licensing Act 2003 came into affect in 2005. You might remember the news items on BBC News where a reporter stood outside a pub that had received a license to be open for 24 hours. Surely this new Act meant that people would drink non-stop. It wasn't really about that though.

The Licensing Act basically combined several licenses that events, pubs, hotels, venues, etc. need in order to operate legally. The Act combined previous liquor licensing, entertainment licensing, and late night refreshment licensing. The responsibility for the Licensing Act lies with the local authority. Think of your local council, county council, or borough council. Your local authority will have a Statement of Licensing Policy somewhere on their website.

The interpretation of the Act might differ per authority but they all work towards the same objectives:

  1. The prevention of crime and disorder
  2. Public Safety
  3. The prevention of public nuisance
  4. The protection of children from harm

Licensing Policy

The Statement of Licensing Policy will be published and reviewed every 5 years. Such a review means that the local authority is talking to local business owners, residents and visitors and is asking them for their opinion. After all it is the council’s objective to promote the licensing objectives, something that should benefit everyone.

In order to sell alcohol or have entertainment in your premises your venue requires a Premises License. A premises can be anything. From a building, to a field, a burger van, a boat, a marquee, a restaurant, a garden, and the list goes on.

A Premises Licence gives you the right to use the premises for one or more of the licensable activities:

The sale by retail of alcohol

In May 2017 a shop in Shrewsbury was fined £1,200 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000 plus a victim surcharge of £100 for selling cigarettes and alcohol to minors, whilst also failing to display a notice identifying the legal ownership of the business operating at the store. (Shropshirelive.com, 2017)

Selling alcohol (and cigarettes) to minors is against the objective of the Licensing Act “the protection of children from harm”.

The supply of alcohol in a members’ club

In April this year one of the leading golf clubs in the UK has applied to its local council for permission to sell alcohol to golfers, while they are playing on the course. (The Golf Business, 2017)

Under a Club Premises Licence you can only sell alcohol to members of a club or sell alcohol to guests of members of that club. Actually, it is not as straightforward as I make it sound. This Golf Club’s request means its current licence needs to change.

The provision of regulated entertainment

Zhivago Theater, the show I promoted as part of Brighton Fringe, took place in a theatre. The theatre is a place where dance and live, or recorded, music is played hence it needs a Premises Licence.

There are exemptions to this rule. Morris Dancing is a dance performance but it does not require a licence as it promotes a cultural heritage. Music as part of a religious event does not need to be licensed either. The event itself needs a licence, just not the activity. 

The provision of late night refreshment

A nightclub I used to go to (yes, years ago) also had a cafeteria on its premises. They sold hot snacks to intoxicated people. After all, a greasy burger is just what you need after a night of drinking. That is the provision of late night refreshment and if you want to serve hot food or hot drinks between 11pm and 5am you need permission for that.

Keeping the 4 objectives in mind

Earlier this year a bar in Leek in Staffordshire has had its Premises Licence revoked after a series of incidents. According to the Leek News website:

More than 20 incidents documented at the venue include: Traces of drugs found throughout the premises, including staff only areas; reports of alcohol being served to underage drinkers, including two 16-year-olds who were served alcohol during a test purchase operation with Trading Standards; reports of fighting and public disorder; reports of people who were banned by Pubwatch being served; noise complaints and no noise limiter fitted; reports of people taking drinks outside; alleged drug dealing; a reported sexual offence; allegations that a 'lock in' took place; customers being served alcohol outside of the permitted hours; licensing breaches including failure to use a refusals book documenting every time a sale of alcohol is refused and CCTV breaches and a search warrant which was executed at the premises on March 10.

Police believe that the venue undermined 3 to 4 of the Licensing Act objectives. Yes, that’s all of the objectives. If anything this is an example of a really bad case. But it also gives you an idea of what you need to think of when applying for a premise licence and the duties you have towards promoting the 4 objectives. The application is lengthy process and you should seek legal advice!

Change is coming!

It is my understanding that The Licensing Act will be amended (again) in the near future. Some changes are discussed in this article.  Always check with your local authority about the latest requirements when applying for a licence and seek legal advice where needed.

For more information visit my website www.eventtutor.com or follow me on Twitter.