With the sun out and temperatures rising, some pubs are re-opening for off sales, to cater for customers wishing to have a drink in parks and green spaces. The Government’s eased lockdown rules in England mean that we’re now permitted to sunbathe or picnic in public spaces, provided that social distancing guidelines are adhered to. This clearly doesn’t authorise some of the large gatherings we have seen reported in the press, but it does mean that people can enjoy sitting outside in the sun again – and why not enjoy a drink whilst doing so!
Whilst pubs must remain closed for on-sales, there is nothing stopping establishments from re-opening to cater for off-sales. For pubs located close to public spaces, this could prove to be a lifeline.
Pubs can cater for off-sales from a planning and licensing perspective, provided that:
- the premises licence permits off-sales of alcohol;
- there are no conditions on the licence restricting off-sales;
- customers are not allowed to consume the alcohol on the premises (which includes any area of the premises, such as a beer garden or other outside area); and
- social distancing measures are in place at the point of sale and inside the premises, to protect both staff and customers.
Fortunately, if the premises licence does not permit off sales, or has restrictive conditions, it is possible to vary the premises licence (e.g. via a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) or full variation).
Operators must be extremely careful to ensure that:
- customers are not permitted to drink alcohol sold for consumption off the premises within the curtilage of the premises, nor to sit on any outdoor furniture or in a beer garden or other external area; and
- that any off-sales of alcohol do not result in crime and disorder, public nuisance (e.g. drunken fighting or pavements being blocked by drinkers) and/or public safety concerns.
Irresponsible operators risk their premises licence being reviewed, receiving a closure notice or being prosecuted if off-sales of alcohol lead to issues relating to disorder, nuisance or public safety.
Given the risks involved, any pub considering re-opening as an off-licence is strongly advised to contact either Niall McCann or Richard Williams for more detailed, site-specific advice.
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.