Wake-up call: Getting your neighbours onside for an outside bar

09 September 2021
Wake-up call: Getting your neighbours onside for an outside bar

Early engagement with local residents is key to success if you want to install an outside bar in your beer garden, advises Ewen Macgregor.

The issue

To assist with social distancing and ease the pressure on the internal bar, some businesses have been installing beer garden bars. But how do you make sure you keep local residents happy with your plans?

The law

The installation of an external bar will require an application for variation to your premises licence. This could be achieved through a minor or, more probably, a full variation.

Check the plan that attaches to your premises licence to see if the ‘red line' includes the garden area where you propose to put the bar. If it is within the red line, there is a stronger argument for the application to be dealt with as a minor variation.

The benefit of a minor variation is that it is quicker, and the application fee is less. There is also no requirement for a notice in the local press, which can be costly.

If an objection to the minor variation application is received from residents or any of the responsible authorities, the application will be refused and you will then need to apply for a full variation.

The safer course of action is therefore to apply for a full variation from the outset.

Expert advice

External bars can assist with customer flow and enable customers who may still be nervous about going inside venues to purchase alcohol outside. They also provide greater supervision of customers by placing ‘another pair of eyes' in the external area. The key to their success is early engagement with local residents and the responsible authorities.

You should carry out some pre-application consultation with the licensing authority and other responsible authorities (in particular the police and environmental health officer). Canvass their opinion and see if they are willing to accept the application by way of a minor variation, and what conditions or restrictions they may want on the use of the external bar.

Consider engaging with your neighbours. They are your closest customers and maintaining good relationships with them is good for business. Contact them through a letter drop, a face-to-face meeting or the local residents group if one exists. Tell them what you are going to do, and what steps you intend to take to address any anticipated concerns.

When carrying out this consultation, consider what conditions you could offer to address any concerns. For example, when will the bar be open? Will it be staffed at all times when it is open? What will you do when it is closed to ensure customers do not have direct access to any alcohol?

Even if there is an objection to the application, you will gain credit for early engagement with your neighbours and the responsible authorities and for being transparent about your proposals.

To-do checklist

Before you start building your external bar:

  • Check your premises licence plan – is the location of the external bar within or outwith the red line?
  • Speak to the environmental health officer.
  • Consult with the licensing officer at the council and the police.
  • Contact local residents about your plans.
  • If there is a local residents association, let them know what you are doing.
  • Does the installation of the bar require planning permission?


Installing and using an external bar without first obtaining permission carries a number of risks. If prosecuted and convicted, you could face an unlimited fine for selling alcohol outside the conditions of your premises licence. You may be told to close the bar or at the very least remove all alcohol from the bar until the proper authorisation has been given. And when you do make the application, you are more likely to be on the back foot.

Ewen Macgregor is a partner at UK law firm TLT


Photo: monkey business images/Shutterstock.com

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