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Tips on how to deal with new licensing laws

06 June 2005
Tips on how to deal with new licensing laws

Here are some tips to ensure you navigate the new licensing procedures as smoothly as possible:-

• First and foremost, ensure the plan of your premises meets with the requirements of the Licensing Act 2003. The principle points to note are, it should be in a scale of 1:100; It should show all entrance and exits points for the premises including escape routes, it should show fixed structures (including furniture) or similar temporary objects which may impact on the ability of individuals to use exits or escape routes; it should show the location and height of each stage or raised area; the location of steps, stairs, lifts, toilets and most importantly any fire safety and any other safety equipment.

• It would be sensible to obtain from your local Fire Authority a specific list of the fire safety equipment it expects to be shown on the plan.

• You need to identify the individual who will be the Designated Premises Supervisor on the Premises Licence if you intend to sell alcohol. In such cases it is wise to ensure your current holder of the Justices Licence obtains a Personal Licence immediately, in order to avoid the need in future for new Personal Licence applicants to obtain Criminal Records Bureau checks and hold the necessary licensing qualification. In any event, the applicant for a Personal Licence will need two passport size photographs, each endorsed on the reverse by a reputable professional (a GP or solicitor will do) as being a true likeness of the applicant.

• Current Justices Licence holders who apply for a Personal Licence should include the original (or a copy certified by a solicitor) of their licence, and for the reasons set out above, they should check that the Justices Licence itself does not contain any errors. If it does you will need to obtain an amended duplicate from the Local Magistrates' Court.

• Complete your Personal Licence and Premises Licence Applications in black ink!

• Read your Local Authority Licensing Policy. It will invariably contain the addresses upon which applications should be served. It will also often provide a clear steer as to the likelihood of success for a Variation and any conditions which may be sought by any of the Responsible Authorities.

• If you are considering adding music or dancing to your licence where you do not currently have it, you may not need to apply for a Variation. Remember that the Licensing Act allows for applications for Temporary Events Notices which will allow live performances of music/dancing for up to 12 occasions in any one year.

• You will need your premises' non domestic rateable value and you will need to ensure that it is the latest valuation which will have been attributed in April 2005.

• The Premises Licence Form is complicated - if you are confused in respect of any of its requirements and are not sure what you have put is what you mean, explain your position in a covering letter.

• Do not forget your post code and telephone number - applications are returned if these are not included.

• You are required to describe the conditions subject to which your existing licences have been granted and to attribute them under the four Licensing Objectives category. There is however a general section covering all four Licensing Objectives. Unless it is absolutely clear, it makes sense to list your existing conditions under (a)- General.

• There is NO NEED to refer to or specify any undertakings to which your old licences may have been subject. These will not transfer to the new licence.

• Do not forget to obtain the consents of all the Justices Licence Holders and Proposed Premises Supervisor.

• Do not forget to sign the Conversion Form at the end of Part A. You will need to also sign the form at the end of Part B if you are applying to vary but DO NOT forget to sign at the end of Part A.

• If applying for a Variation, you are required to fill out standard days and timings for the Variation. We suggest that you put in your complete hours and not just the additional hours you are looking for, but make clear that you have done this in a covering letter.

• Music and dancing variations are covered in Sections E, F and G. If you are in any doubt as to whether these sections cover the type of activity you envisage, use Section H - anything of a similar description and give a clear description of what you propose in that section.

• Section L deals with late night refreshments. This is only a licensable activity between the hours of 11.00 pm and 5.00 am. There is no need to refer to the provision of any refreshment outside these hours.

• You are required to state the hours the premises are open to the public. This is not necessarily the hours that licensable activities will take place. Remember, you will be committed to the hours that you put in Section O.

• Section Q provides the most problems for applicants. We suggest that in most cases applicants should be able to replicate existing Operating Conditions on existing licences within these boxes. It is not necessary to encumber your Licence Application with a host of conditions you are not currently subjected to. It may be necessary to agree such conditions as part of the application procedure when Responsible Authorities make representations, but we see no need to volunteer them in advance. Anything volunteered in this box will become a condition of the licence!

• Do not forget that you need to advertise a Variation in the local paper and outside the premises (the latter being on pale blue paper!). Ensure a copy of the local paper containing the advert is kept and make a log recording the notices being displayed for the relevant 28 days.

• Be sensible about the kind of representations that are likely to be made. If you are applying to extend your liquor licensing hours, you will be expected to agree to additional conditions in respect of door staff etc. If you are applying to increase the hours of music and dancing, you will be expected to be subjected to conditions relating to control of noise. Use of sound limiters or the requirement to keep windows closed are common representations.

• Expect communication from the Police and Fire Authority and do not ignore these communications. The licensing process should be one of communication between the applicant and the Responsible Authorities and agreement upon appropriate wording for conditions.

• Expect the unexpected! This process invites representations from local businesses and residents. Many such representations may be without any merit, but take seriously in particular, those which complain of noise or disturbance.

• If you can agree conditions with a Responsible Authority that has made representations, ring your local Licensing Authority and ensure they are aware there is agreement. This may avoid the necessity of a hearing.

Ed Farrelly is Head of Licensing at Eversheds Manchester Office. edfarrelly@eversheds.com.

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