Licensing - more changes ahead?

Commercial Property Article

28 September, 2010

New controversial changes are ahead in light of the Governments consultation on licensing reform. The new conditions will bring further changes to an industry which was only recently overhauled with the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003.

In April 2010 the first three mandatory new conditions came into force. These are:

  1. A ban on "irresponsible" drinks promotions such as discounted drinking or free alcohol in connection with a game or sporting event.
  2. A ban on alcohol being dispensed directly into a customers mouth.
  3. All licensees must offer tap water free of charge.

Other conditions which are currently being debated and may come into force in October of this year include:

  1. Increased penalties for under aged drinkers
    Requiring licensees to have a policy in place requiring proof of age. Maximum fines for persistent underage sales is set to double to £20,000 together with automatic licence reviews. Local Authorities and the police will have increased powers to permanently shut down any shop or bar which is persistently selling to under aged drinkers.
  2. Higher Fees
    An increase in licence fees for late night licences and an automatic revocation for non payment of licence fees. The increase in fees will be discretionary to Local Councils.
  3. Increasing local authority and police powers
    Licensing authorities are to be given stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licenses to premises which are deemed to be causing problems. Licensing authorities would have more discretion over opening times of premises.
  4. Tightening up on Temporary Event Notices
    The time for police to object to Temporary Event Notices is set to increase from two to five working days. The period of notice required for submitting a Temporary Event Notice is to increase and vary according to the nature of the event. There will be a limit of Temporary Event Notices allowed per person per year.
  5. Smaller measures
    Licensees must make smaller measures of alcohol available and ensure customers are aware of their availability for example (i) beer or cider: pint; (ii) gin, rum, vodka or whisky: 25 ml or 35 ml; and (iii) still wine in a glass: 125 ml
  6. No Early Mornings
    New Early Morning Restriction Orders could be introduced allowing Local Councils to ban alcohol sales from specific venues at specific times for example between midnight and 7am.

The proposals have been met with mixed responses by the industry. Banning of below cost sales of alcohol and harsher penalties to persistent sellers to under aged drinkers has been welcomed by many. However, it is important to keep a sense of perspective on an already hard hit industry.

There is no reason to believe that the additional proposed amendments outlined above may be amended or added to before they come into force. The key for all licensees is to watch this space.

For further information contact Commercial Property Solicitor Hannah Moody on 01772 220195 or freephone 0800 689 0831

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