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Designated Premises Supervisors – are your licences up to date?

Premises licence holders need to keep a close eye on who their Designated Premises Supervisors are – or risk action from the courts and the Licensing Authority.

Why are Designated Premises Supervisors important?

Selling alcohol without a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) is a breach of what are known as the mandatory conditions which apply to every premises licence throughout the country.

If you sell alcohol on premises without a DPS, enforcement action could be taken which might result in prosecution. Magistrates Courts can now, on conviction, impose unlimited fines. In addition, a licence might be reviewed as a consequence.

The above all seems straightforward – so why do so many operators get themselves into potential difficulties and expose their businesses to unnecessary risk?

What issues can operators face when it comes to a Designated Premises Supervisor?

It is a fact of life in the licence trade that staff come and go.

Once the DPS steps out of the door for the last time however, premises are effectively without a DPS. If premises licence holders don’t act quickly then they make themselves vulnerable.

What action should operators take?

Once the DPS has handed their notice in, a replacement should be identified and an application made to coincide with their last day.

Having additional personal licence holders employed at the premises is sensible, if not only for general due diligence purposes, but also so that there is someone who is immediately available to step into a departing DPS’ shoes, if only as a temporary measure, and pending the employment of a permanent placement.

Personal licences can take up to two months to obtain so not having a “spare personal licence holder” is a significant risk.

What happens if you wait to appoint a replacement DPS?

Occasionally premises licence holders take the view that no one will find out that their DPS has left so there is no rush to replacement.

Our experience, however, is that this is not a prudent approach and we know of several operators who have regretted proceeding in this way.

If a DPS leaves on bad terms, it is possible they could advise the Council themselves of their departure and confirm that they no longer have any responsibility for the premises.

Equally, if anything goes wrong at the premises and the now departed DPS is contacted, they will happily confirm that they have left and that the incident had nothing to do with them.

Once the Council and the police know that a DPS is no longer employed at the premises, every sale of alcohol that takes place after their departure is arguably illegal.

What happens if a DPS is suspended, or on protracted sickness leave?

Replacing someone on suspension or sick leave as a DPS could be considered to be prejudicial to their role in the business, and potentially leave an operator open to employment law claims.

Our advice is that if a DPS is to be away from the business for over two weeks then thought should be given to replacing them, but it should be made clear in doing so that no judgment is being made (if they are the subject of a suspension) and that this is a temporary measure to uphold the principles of the Licensing Act 2003 and to protect the business.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

For further information on managing DPS requirements or on any other aspect of licensing, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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