Electronic Licensing Applications
The necessary legislation was only passed on 3 December, and came into force on 28 December. But I suspect that many Licensing Authorities are still not geared up for electronic applications. Most make no mention of this possibility on their websites.
The electronic system will apply to most licensing applications and notifications such as applications for and variations of Premises Licences, and Temporary Event Notices, but it will not be possible to apply on-line for Personal Licenses and renewal of Personal Licences, and reviews of Premises Licences. These will still have to be made in paper format.
The good news is that the government have seized the opportunity to sort out some of the red tape that made the process so tiresome and expensive. For example, with electronic applications it will be the Licensing Authorities who will have to copy some applications to the Responsible Authorities such as the police, fire authority, planning, and trading standards. This will make life a lot easier and cheaper for the applicant. Also they have been forced to look at the requirement for plans. Can you imagine trying to send a 1:100 plan electronically? So they have abandoned a scale requirement, and will insist that the plan must only be "clear and legible in all respects". The other good news is that the relaxation on plans will also apply to paper applications.
So how will this work? A central information portal will be established on the business link website www.businesslink.gov.uk. It will go by the name of Electronic Application Facility (EAF). Licensing Authorities can opt to set up their own portals, in which case there will be a direct link to them from the EAF. Of course an important part of the system will be the ability to pay on-line, as no application can be accepted unless and until payment is made.
I know that there will be teething problems with the new electronic process, and it might be wise to avoid it for the first few months unless in an emergency. It will be especially good for service of Temporary Event Notices which are quite simple to deal with.
Major changes from the end of January 2010
The Policing and Crime Act 2009 of November allows members of Licensing Authorities to object to applications and initiate a review of a Licence, gives power to the government to impose new mandatory conditions on Premises Licences and Club Registration Certificates, will make it an offence to sell alcohol to children on 2 occasions (currently 3 occasions) within 3 consecutive months (in addition to other offences), and will introduce a whole new regime for Sexual Entertainment Venues.
The following changes will come into force on 29 January 2010:
- Allowing members of Licensing Authorities to object to applications and initiate a review of a Premises Licence or Club Registration Certificate
- Making it an offence to sell alcohol to children on 2 occasions (currently 3 occasions) within 3 consecutive months
- A new offence for under 18's of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place (3 or more occasions in 12 consecutive months)
- Changes to the law on confiscation of alcohol from under 18's and directions to those aged 10 or over to leave a public place
My advice is that if you have any licensing applications to make you do your best to get them in before 29 January otherwise you will face the possibility that an over zealous Licensing Authority will put the boot into your application.
The government have just announced the additional mandatory conditions which will attach to all licences, both new and existing. The conditions include a requirement to obtain satisfactory identification from those who appear to be under 18 who are trying to purchase alcohol, a requirement that free tap water is made available, a ban on irresponsible promotions and drinking games, and a requirement to make available smaller wine glasses and spirit measures.
The conditions on tap water and promotions will come into force on 6 April, and the conditions on age verification and smaller measures on 1 October.
As these will be conditions any breach will be an offence carrying possible fines and/or imprisonment, but hopefully common sense will prevail in their enforcement.
More in store
So what else is the government addressing in "Johnny come lately style"? Well, they have issued a new consultation (responses by 9 February 2010) to address issues we have been complaining about for many years. Firstly they are proposing to allow 28 days rather than 7 days for the issue of an Interim Authority Notice after death or bankruptcy. Remember the Welsh pub which had to go dry for 2 months whilst they got a new Premises Licence because the grieving widow of the Licensee did not (understandably) get in the notice within 7 days of her husband's death? I and others said back in 2002 that this was bonkers and should be changed, but I suppose better late than never.
And the government have had a look at Temporary Event Notices, and propose that the Police should have 2 working days rather than 48 hours in which to object, and (hooray!) have proposed that even late Temporary Event Notices (less than 10 working days before the event) could still be allowed if the Police give permission.
Also, the voices that have long been complaining that the Licensing Act 2003 has been killing music in pubs, have been listened to. There is a consultation running until 26 March proposing that live music will be exempt from the 2004 Act provisions for audiences of no more than 100. This would if implemented allow pubs, village halls, even cafes restaurants and record shops, to put on small scale live music events. But the performances must be indoor and between 8am and 11pm, and there would be a provision for objections in the case of specific venues.
It’s a case of watch this space to see the final result of the consultations and the impact of some of these changes.
And finally, the good news for the vast number of law abiding citizens who like to stock up on wine and beer at good prices, is that both the government and the Conservative party have just announced that they will not be pursuing minimum pricing (at least for the time being), recognising that it would only hit hard the pocket of the majority for the sake of the small minority. They both recognise a vote loser! The pub trade will obviously feel that they are being unjustly targeted and that the supermarkets are being let off the hook.
For more information and advice on licensing law and the impact of these changes call Nigel Musgrove of Cousins Business Law on 01285 847001 or email me.