Licensing-are minor variation applications worth the effort?

Posted: Wednesday, 23 September 2015 @ 16:27

Firstly, what are minor variation applications and when can they be used?

If anyone who holds a Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate wishes to alter the structure of the premises or layout which will differ from the filed plan, or wishes to add or remove licensable activities, change the hours of such activities, or add or remove conditions, the main way of doing this is by way of a formal application for a variation. In that case it is pretty much like applying for a new licence, with the same fee structure and need for expensive advertisement.

But there is an alternative for "minor variations". Examples of where this may be available are:

  1. a small change to the layout which does not increase the capacity for drinking alcohol, and does not affect the access between the public parts of the premises and the rest of the premises or street, and does not reduce the effect of noise prevention measures. Obviously an intention to block up fire escapes would require a full variation application.
  2. removing a licensable activity from the Premises Licence or Club premises Certificate.
  3. reducing the hours for the sale or supply of alcohol
  4. moving the hours for the sale or supply of alcohol between 07:00 and 23:00, without increasing them.
  5. varying the times when licensable activities take place
  6. amending or removing redundant conditions
  7. amending or removing unclear or unenforceable conditions.

The minor variation procedure cannot be used to extend the period for which the licence has effect (if it is a limited licence), add the supply of alcohol as an activity, authorise the supply of alcohol between 11pm and 7am, extend the period for supply of alcohol , or vary substantially the premises.

Process

There is a prescribed form which must be used. Application can be made on-line or by post by sending the form to the Licensing Authority with the fee (£89 at the moment).

A notice on white paper again in a prescribed form must then be displayed on the premises for 10 working days starting on the day after the application is given to the licensing authority.

There is then a consultation period of 10 working days coinciding with the 10 working day display period. During this time the licensing authority must consult with all relevant responsible authorities such as the police, fire authority, environmental health authority, and give them the opportunity of challenging the application by making a formal representation. Not only responsible authorities but anyone has the right to challenge the application by making a "relevant representation".

The licensing authority itself will also consider the application and may challenge it. A challenge by representation must relate to the impact of the application on one or more of the licensing objectives, and must be made within the 10 day period.

The licensing authority then has a further 5 days to determine the application. If it rejects the application there is no right to a hearing or appeal. If the licensing authority fails to issue a determination within that period the application is deemed rejected and the fee forfeited. But with agreement with the authority it may be rolled over into a new application for a minor variation.

Pro's and Cons

On the face of it the minor variation application procedure seems a good idea. Much cheaper and quicker than a full variation application. But the problem is that it is very restrictive, with no opportunity for negotiation once the application has been issued.

The licensing officer cannot impose conditions, so once served the application is set in stone. So it requires very careful thinking, with a full risk assessment before it is issued, with appropriate conditions offered to counter the risks. Prior consultation with all the responsible authorities is highly desirable, just to identify any possible issues. But first of all anyone can raise representations, not just the responsible authorities, so it maybe impossible to identify prospective objectors to have prior discussions with them. And in any case all this takes time, and if the application is rejected at least a month and considerable expense will have been wasted.

So unless the application involves simple and uncontroversial issues it is probably better to follow the full variation procedure, with its flexibility and chance for a hearing if objections cannot be resolved.

Nigel Musgrove
Licensing Law Specialist
Tel: 0845 003 5639

 

 

Blog by Nigel Musgrove
Nigel has been providing dispute resolution advice as a solicitor for over 35 years. As well as advising SMEs and business owners on disputes he also offers a specialist licensing law service. View profile
Call Nigel on +44 (0)1285 847 001 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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