Coronavirus is continuing to spread throughout the UK, and in these worrying times those with licensed premises such as restaurants, bars, clubs and festivals and other outdoor events will have questions about the impact on their premises licence. Below, licensing specialist Gareth Hughes explores the key considerations for business owners.

  1. Consider what happens if you lose a designated premises supervisor (DPS) due to illness where this person may need to be off work for some time or longer term because of complications or needing to see relatives on the other side of the world. You can easily vary the DPS by a short notice to the licensing authority and put on a new member of the team with a personal licence. It’s a short-form procedure and takes effect immediately.
  2. Check that you have adequate bar staff on duty who are personal licence holders under whom the authority to sell alcohol takes place.
  3. Check also that any of your staff who are on sickness leave or absent are not the competent members of staff who are responsible for being familiar with the CCTV system in the premises – a condition on many licences.
  4. Door staff. If you have sick door staff you may still need to ensure that numbers are kept up to a level if this is a condition on your licence.
  5. No live sport on TV because of banning of such events could lead to more drunkenness and anti-social behaviour in bars, about which I am getting reports. A live football/cricket/rugby match tends to slow up drinking as customers watch the game but without such a brake on drinking, things could get out of hand so monitor things carefully as you would not wish to end up on the wrong end of a review of your licence.
  6. Specific dates of events on licence. Many premises licences are for specific events and may have only the date of the events on the face of the licence. This means that in law the event cannot be held on an alternative date. I am currently negotiating with a few licensing authorities hoping for a pragmatic response (i.e. a simple change of date on a licence) but they would be within their rights to say that the applicant must apply for a new licence to cover an alternative date. If you are moving an event to an alternative date and there is a fixed date on the licence, you will, in law, need to apply for a new licence.
  7. If in extreme circumstances, which I hope does not arise, the future viability of the business is at risk through lack of custom, lack of staff or a government ban on opening, then you will wish to ensure that the premises licence is preserved in order to retain value in your business going forward. If another company or individual wishes to buy the business or the premises, then you should be prepared to transfer the premises licence across to that other business, and this can be done by way of an application to the licensing authority on short notice and to take effect immediately. Do not liquidate the company before the transfer application is made as this will cause further complications, with licensing authorities arguing that the licence is lapsed and there should be an application for a new one.

The Chancellor announced on 17 March that the Government is ready to urgently change planning legislation to permit pubs and bars, that are effectively now closed down, to provide hot-food takeaway and delivery services. There is little, if any, detail on this at the moment but I would suspect that they will change the General Permitted Development Order to allow a temporary use, say, A5 (takeaway establishment) in addition to an existing use class A3 (restaurant/bar/café).

If those services are to be provided after 11pm, then operators may have to urgently apply to vary their licences to permit the provision of late-night refreshment. Other operators may wish to add off-sales of alcohol to their licence or vary conditions restricting takeaway food to permit deliveries and will require a licence variation.

We have written to the Institute of Licensing, of which Gareth is a director and chairman of London region, and to the Home Secretary and Culture Secretary, suggesting that they make an immediate order under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 declaring this period one of “international, national and local significance” and, by so doing, extend hours of licensable activities (in this case, takeaway of hot food after 23.00 and sales of alcohol) to say 01.00 for a temporary period of, say, two months with the opportunity to review thereafter. This would do away with the necessity of licence applications in respect of extra hours at a time when licensing authorities are very stretched.

If you have further questions on how your premises licence will be affected, please contact Gareth using the details below.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.