Opening licensed premises - how to avoid a false start

Posted: Monday, 1 March 2010 @ 14:42
Opening licensed premises - how to avoid a false start

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In the excitement of buying an established hotel, corner shop, restaurant, pub or off-licence, or for the more adventurous setting up a new one, many overlook the vital licensing requirements with the possibility that they will open their doors but be unable to make any of the vital sales of alcohol. It could be a very dull opening party and it could be a disastrous publicity stunt if the press makes fun of the faux pass!

So what do you need to be thinking of from the start? Take early business advice from experts in licensing law, but here is the Cousins Business Law basic check list:

  1. Do you intend to carry out any activity licensable under the Licensing Act 2003? The activities are the retail sale of alcohol, regulated entertainment, late night refreshment, and supply of alcohol in a club
  2. If you do you need to check the current Premises Licence to ensure that your intended activities are covered and during the hours you require and are not subject to any onerous conditions. If you need to obtain a Premises Licence then you may need to move fast as it could take between one month and possibly up to 3 or 4 months to obtain from the Licensing Authority.
  3. If you intend to sell alcohol there are mandatory conditions which demand that alcohol is sold under the authority of a Personal Licence holder and that there is a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) for the premises at all times that alcohol is sold. That DPS must hold a Personal Licence. 
  4. If you are taking on existing staff who hold at least one Personal Licence amongst them, and that holder is also the Designated Premises Supervisor, there is no immediate need to act but my advice would be to ensure that you or one of the managers in your business has a Personal Licence. The more holders of Personal Licences you have the better just in case there are any last minute changes to members of staff. It is also good practice when operating licensed premises. Personal Licence holders have to have qualifications in licensing law and this should help prevent any breach of the law.
  5. If you need to obtain a Personal Licence then the first step is to obtain the necessary qualification from an authorised awarding body. Be aware that it may take you a month or more to attend a course and pass the examination. The awarding bodies are the BiiAB for the Level 2 National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders, Education Development Council www.ediplc.com for the GOAL Level 2 Certificate for Personal Licence Holders, and The Pubshop Ltd www.nationaltrainingco.com for the GQ National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders.
  6. Once you have your qualification you need to obtain a Criminal Records Bureau Certificate. Again this could take several weeks. Once you have your Certificate you can apply to the Licensing Authority for your Personal Licence. This may also take several weeks presuming there are no police objections. 
  7. If you intend to make any application for a Variation of the Premises Licence be aware that this may not be possible until after the licence has been transferred to you and again the process could take a minimum of one month and possibly 3 or 4 months.

Our advice is to set a realistic timetable for completion of your purchase taking into account lead times to obtain finance and sell any existing assets necessary for the process, and factor in time needed to deal with licensing issues. Instruct your chosen business solicitors at an early stage.

Cousins Business Law offer a fixed fee service for licence applications – contact Nigel Musgrove, licensing solicitor, for more details.

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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