The escalation of the coronavirus and the UK government restrictions imposed as a result of it has led to licensed premises temporarily closing or changing the way in which they operate.
The purpose of this note is to flag some of the fundamental considerations for licensed premises when closing, changing or temporarily suspending services. It also covers key considerations for when they re-open following a period of closure:
- If you are considering providing food and/or alcohol takeaway or delivery services in place of service on the premises please check that your licence conditions cover sales of alcohol for consumption “off” the premises and whether you have different or restricted hours listed for “off premises sales” that apply to the proposed takeaway or delivery services. It should be noted that, whilst from 24th March 2020 the planning rules have been relaxed to allow a temporary change so that restaurants (A3 use) and pubs (A4 use) can operate as hot food takeaways for a period of up to 12 months (provided they notify the local planning authority when the use begins and ends), this is completely separate from the licencing rules. Any conditions attached to your Premises Licence must still be adhered to.
- If you are to continue to open for trade (e.g supermarkets, off-licences etc who are deemed under the governments restrictions to be “essential”) then you should check your licence conditions and consider whether you can still observe them. Some imposed conditions require minimum numbers of personnel on the premises at certain times, e.g. personal licence holders and if you are unable to fulfil these then difficulties may arise.
- Without a designated premises supervisor (DPS), there will be no authority to sell alcohol. Therefore, if you are in the regrettable position of needing to make redundancies, and where a DPS has been made redundant (or furloughed), in order that you can ensure continuity of service an application will need to be made to vary the premises licence to name an alternative DPS. You should also continually review the number of named personal licence holders to ensure the appropriate supervision of alcohol sales.
- Annual fees will still be payable even if you are temporarily suspending activities and/or closing premises. If annual fees are not paid (unless the Premises Licence has been surrendered) licensing authorities have the power to suspend premises licences (which would prevent sales of alcohol or other licensed activities). It is therefore essential to ensure payment of the annual fees to allow for re-opening of the premises in due course.
- We would strongly advise that you do not make an application to surrender your premises licence, unless you are sure that you will no longer carry out licensable activities at the premises in future. Once a premises licence has been surrendered, it cannot be restored once the 21 day “grace period” has passed. If you wish to provide licensable activities again then you would then need to apply for a new licence (including paying the necessary fees) which may lead to delays without any guarantee that a new licence would be granted.
Should you wish to discuss your premises licence requirements or require assistance with any licensing applications then please contact Swinburne Maddison’s licensing law specialist, Gillian Moir, on 0191 338 6526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.