5 top tips for obtaining (and keeping) a premises licence

There aren’t many people who choose to launch a business in the hospitality sector because they are naturally drawn to paperwork and compliance but, if your business is one which requires a premises license, this is something you will need to get to grips with very quickly. 

The legal process of obtaining and maintaining a premises license is stringent so here are some top tips for navigating this and staying on the right side of the regulations.  Getting these things right should mean you can then focus on what you do best: running your business.

1.  Know your business

If your business is carrying out “licensable” activities and you fail to obtain a premises licence, you will be in breach of the law, will not be able to operate and could face legal action and/or prosecution.  Some licensable activities are more obvious than others.  I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that you need a licence to sell alcohol on your premises, but what about playing live music (or indeed background music) or offering hot food after 11pm?  Take time to consider what your business will be offering – as well as the people, services and facilities involved – to ensure that all relevant licenses and permissions have been obtained before you start trading. 

2.  Get your paperwork in order

The application form for a premises licence is very detailed and there is quite a lot of information that you will need to have to hand before you get started, including:-  

  • details of your operating schedule (to include proposed opening hours, hours of service and the type and duration of activities that will take place on the premises)
  • proof that you are eligible to work in the UK;
  • poof that you are not subject to any condition that prevents you from obtaining a premises licence;
  • details of the steps you will take to promote the four licensing objectives (prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance, protection of children from harm);
  • consent of the “designated premises supervisor” (see point 3 below); and
  • detailed plans of the premises.

At this stage, you may wish to consult a specialist Licensing solicitor who can help to guide you through the process and offer advice on the terms of your licence to make sure it works for you and your business.

3.  Pick the right Designated Premises Supervisor

If alcohol is being sold as part of your business operations, then, on top of your premises license, you will also need a “designated premises supervisor” (DPS) holding a personal licence.  This person will most likely be the person with control over the day-to-day activities of the business e.g. your manager.  However, as the DPS will be the point of contact for all authorities in connection with the licence, including the police, it is important that they have the right skills and attitude to deal with any issues.

4.  Prepare for any objections

Once submitted, your licence application will be subject to a 28-day public consultation period.  During this time you will need to advertise the application in the local press and members of the public and authorities (e.g. the police) can comment on the application and the licensing authority will  consider any objections very carefully.  A decision will then be made on whether to grant, refuse or partially grant the application.  The authority may specify restrictions when granting the licence, for example limiting the hours during which you can serve of alcohol or play music. 

5.  Don’t rest on your laurels

The hard work isn’t over once your licence is granted.  Systems must be put in place immediately to ensure that your business is always operating within the terms of its licence.  Some of the ongoing concerns to keep in mind are:- 

  • If your DPS leaves, replace them straightaway or stop selling alcohol until a new DPS has been appointed. Continuing to sell alcohol with no DPS in place is a criminal offence which can result in a fine and up to 6 months in prison (or both).
  • Any member of your team can put your licence at risk by serving alcohol to someone they shouldn’t, so invest in regular training for all staff members.
  • You must ensure the “licence summary” is displayed at all times and that the full licence is readily available for inspection at any time
  • Be mindful that changes to your business activities, such as introducing new licensable activities or adjusting your opening hours, can render your licence invalid and leave you facing penalties.

If you would like to discuss how you can get a premises licence, or require advice with regard to other licensing matters, please contact Licensing specialist, Gillian Moir, on 0191 384 2441 (email: gm@swinburnemaddison.co.uk).

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