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Changing your premises licences

12 March 2010
Changing your premises licences

If you make alterations to your licensed premises, such as refurbishing the interior or changing the operation, you need to make sure your premises licence is updated accordingly. Solicitor James Daglish explains what you need to consider.

THE PROBLEM

We've just refurbished an old pub and turned it into a wine bar. The refurbishment works include an extension to the bar and the creation of a number of raised areas. However the local authority's licensing department has inspected our bar and told us that the premises licence needs to be varied.

The local police have also visited and are concerned that the change to a bar will have an adverse impact on crime and disorder. They have asked us to install CCTV and employ security staff after 9pm. What should we do?

THE LAW

Changes to fixed structures and raised areas in licensed premises require a variation to the Premises Licence. Until recently, there was little distinction between the application process to vary a Premises Licence and an application for a new Premises Licence. However, the Government has now amended the Licensing Act to make it easier to make "minor" variations. The existing full procedure will be retained for variations that are not minor.

So, what is a minor variation? Generally these fall into four categories:

  • minor changes to the structure or layout of the premises
  • small adjustments to the licensing hours
  • the removal of out-of-date, irrelevant or unenforceable conditions or addition of volunteered conditions
  • the addition of certain licensable activities (eg, the performance of plays or exhibition of films).

Certain changes cannot in any circumstances be "minor", notably adding the sale by retail or supply of alcohol as an activity, or any increase in opening hours. Under the new rules, the application to make one or more minor variations will be made to the licensing authority.

The licensing authority must then consult such responsible authorities that it considers appropriate and must take into account their comments. It must also consider any relevant representations made by local residents or businesses. The minor variation application must be determined by the local authority within 15 working days following receipt. If it is not determined within that time frame, then your application will be deemed to have been rejected, and the fee and application must be returned.

If, having been through this process, the licensing authority considers that the proposed variation(s) "could have no adverse effect" on the promotion of the licensing objectives, it must grant your application.

EXPERT ADVICE

Your refurbishment has triggered the need to vary the premises licence. Fortunately you can use the simplified minor variations application process.

Although the comments from the police could simply be regarded as a request, you should engage with them. Assuming their requests are not already conditions under the premises licence, you should try to assess whether these are routine requests or whether they are based on specific local problems with drinking-related crime and disorder.

The simplest way to deal with this is by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Police. Otherwise, you could volunteer the points as conditions to the premises licence as part of the minor variations application. CCTV in bars and clubs has essentially become commonplace today.

CHECK LIST

  • Apply to the local authority for a minor variation to your premises licence. This will be on a new form, with a flat fee of £89. No other authorities need be notified, but a white (as opposed to pale blue) notice must be displayed at the premises.
  • Enter into a dialogue with the police and deal with their concerns
  • Install CCTV

BEWARE!

Licensing is often low on the list of priorities when refurbishments or changes of ownership of licensed premises take place. However, licensing authorities and the police are now quick to check on newly transferred premises licences. So the sooner you engage with those authorities to ensure you are complying with your obligations, the better.

CONTACTS

James Daglishis a solicitor at Goodman Derrick LLP

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