Licensing

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Many of our business clients are in the entertainment and leisure industry and need to be sure they have all the correct Licences in place.  We have the expertise to advise clients on the requirements of the Licensing Act 2003.

Often, this may be part of a larger commercial transaction, when a client purchases new commercial premises, perhaps venturing into the hospitality industry for the first time and needing considerable guidance.  Alternatively, it can be a stand-alone transaction for a client who simply needs a variation to his existing Premises Licence 

We are happy to provide as much, or as little, help and guidance as you require, whether that means:

  • obtaining a new Premises Licences;
  • varying existing Premises Licences;
  • advising on the process of obtaining the necessary Personal Licence; or
  • assisting clients with transferring Premises Licences and changing Designated Premises Supervisors, either when they purchase a new venture or when there is a change of personnel.

We can also advise on whether or not gaming machines are covered by your Premises Licence.

We liaise with all other relevant bodies in relation to applications, such as the Police, Trading Standards, Child Protection, Environmental Health, Planning and the Fire Service.


The hospitality industry is heavily regulated. Businesses including hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs need licences to operate and there is a strict process to follow and maintain. If you’re starting out then you need to get to grips with this quickly, and make sure that systems are in place to meet the terms of your licences from day to day. Here are our top tips for getting this right.

KNOW YOUR BUSINESS

Get to the heart of how your business will run. Will you sell alcohol and will you permit entry to people under the age of 18? Will you play live or background music? Will you need CCTV? Fruit machines? Will you need to use the pavement outside the premises for signage, seating or for smoking?

These are just some of the things for which licences are needed. Some are more obvious than others and if you are new to the hospitality trade, you might be surprised by the number of permissions you will need. So sit down and work through exactly what it is your business will offer and the people, services and facilities involved. Then speak to someone (like one of our licensing specialists) about getting everything in place before you start trading.

The government’s online licence finder is a useful first step towards identifying the licences your business might need: https://www.gov.uk/licence-finder/sectors

GET A PREMISES LICENCE

This is your overarching licence. It enables you to run your business from a particular building or space (indoor or outdoor), and to engage in “licensable” activities such as selling alcohol and playing music. A premises licence can be held in a company’s name or an individual’s name; perhaps yours as the business owner, or maybe your appointed manager. Whoever you choose must accept their responsibility to make sure that the business operates within the confines of its licences.

APPOINT YOUR DPS

Where alcohol is on sale then your licence must name the “designated premises supervisor”, so you’ll need to think about who that person should be. It is an offence to sell alcohol at premises without there being a DPS.

Make sure that whoever you appoint as your DPS has the skills to deal professionally with any issues (they will be the point of contact for authorities including the police) and that they have a responsible attitude. They must agree to become the DPS; the premises licence includes a consent form for them to complete. They’ll also need a personal licence.

GET THE APPLICATION PROCESS RIGHT

There is a fair bit of paperwork to get in order before you will be ready to submit your application to the licensing authority. There’s also a fee. The fee is based on the rateable value of the property. The application form is very detailed and includes a requirement to provide the hours the premises wish to open as well as the hours they wish to sell alcohol/play music, etc, late night opening, steps to be taken to promote the four licensing objectives (prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance, protection of children from harm), detailed plans of the premises and confirmation that the appropriate advertisements have been placed in newspapers.

DON’T ASSUME YOU WILL GET THE LICENCE YOU WANT

Even where your licence application has been submitted properly, the licensing authority will consider the full circumstances very carefully and will listen to any objections to your application. It may decide to grant all or part of the licence you need and may specify restrictions on what you can and cannot do. For example, your alcohol-serving times may be restricted, or you may only be allowed to play music between certain times. You may be able to apply to have restrictions lifted and we can help with that process.

SHOW THE WORLD WHAT YOU’VE GOT

The law says that you must display a summary of your premises licence and it should be available to a member of the public who asks to see it. If you don’t do this, and do not have a good excuse, you could be fined up to £500.

KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN CHANGE HITS

One of the most important things you need to recognise is just how important it is to keep on top of your licence terms. If your DPS leaves, for example, then you need to take action to avoid falling foul of the law.  Continuing to sell alcohol when there is no DPS in the business is a criminal offence; the premises licence-holder could be fined up to £20,000 and faces up to six months in prison.

It’s serious. So make sure you understand the licences that attach to individuals in your business, and what happens if those people decide to move on. If your DPS says they are leaving, you should replace them straight away, or stop selling alcohol until a new DPS has been appointed.

GET EVERYONE ON BOARD

Everyone within your business – and not just the licence-holders – must be responsible at work. Even your most junior bar staff could get your business into trouble by serving alcohol to people they shouldn’t. A spot-check by Trading Standards could put your licence at risk, so invest in training for your staff.

BUYING A BUSINESS? CHECK THE LICENCES

As part of the pre-purchase process, take a good look at the licences your seller has in place. You may inherit offences (for example where the licence hasn’t been updated to reflect changes to the business or premises) and so check the detail, scope and terms of existing licences very carefully.

Check too, if any prosecutions or actions (eg noise abatement notices) are active or pending in relation to the licences. The outcomes will affect your operation. You should also check that any existing licence holders have not died or become insolvent. Either of those events would bring a licence to an end, and you would need to apply within a very strict timescale for that licence to be reinstated.

REVIEW YOUR LICENCES

It’s no good resting on your laurels. Changes to your business can affect the licences you have secured, in some circumstances rendering them invalid and leaving you facing penalties.

And the devil is often in the detail. Check regularly that the names and addresses on your premises licence remain correct. Check also that your business is operating within the terms of your licences; for example, are your opening or closing hours the same? Are you trading as you always have been, or have you introduced new licensable activities such as live music? A spot-check by the licensing authority would cover these areas, amongst others, and so it’s well worth making sure that your stall is always in order.

Contact our solicitors in Southampton, Winchester, The New Forest or the surrounding areas by using the drop down below. Alternatively, visit our people page to speak to a member of staff directly.

Contact our experts for further advice

View profile for Lisa BadgerLisa Badger