New licensing guidance has failed to clarify whether alcohol can be served while the personal licence holder is off-site.
The ambiguity over the law has led some councils to insist that a personal licence holder is on the premises at all times.
AlthoughTourism Minister Shaun Woodward has said personal licence holders shouldn't be expected to be on site at all times, experts warn the clarification doesn't go far enough.
Jeremy Allen, senior partner at licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen, said: "This new guidance still leaves the issue up in the air."
The problem is that despite stating personal licence holders don't need to be present at all times, the Government hasn't said how often they can be away from their business or how long, stating, instead, it "would, ultimately, be a matter for the court to determine".
Allen suggested personal licence holders could best protect themselves by issuing written authorisation for a staff member to deputise in their absence and by putting staff through the personal licence exam.
Huntingdonshire hotelier Nick Steiger, who runs the seven-bedroom Grange hotel in Brampton, was told by his council last year that a personal licence holder would have to be present at all times.
Although his local council no longer insists on his continual presence, it still demands notification if he was away for more than a day or two.
"Under the old licensing regime I was responsible for what happened on the premises even if I was not in the building - why should that change?" said Steiger.
By Angela Frewin