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Licensing conditions – be careful what you agree to

We were promised that the Licensing Act 2003 would herald a 'light touch' approach to the regulation of the sale of alcohol and the provision of entertainment.

As we reflect on the past ten years, is this what we’ve ended up with? Sadly, the answer has to be no – and some of this is to do with the imposition of licensing conditions.

What is causing problems?

The way in which licensing applications are dealt with can vary dramatically in different parts of the country.

This is partly due to what many in the industry see as unhelpful and often unjustified regional variations and interpretation of not only the Licensing Act 2003 but also the attitude towards licensing conditions that has developed.

Operators keen to secure a licence are often tempted to bite their lip and agree to conditions that the law says shouldn’t be on their licences.

However, it is often forgotten in the rush to obtain a licence that a condition creates a risk since failure to comply can lead to a prosecution or review.

What conditions should operators agree to?

Conditions should only ever be agreed to that are, in the words of the law, “appropriate, proportionate and necessary”.

They should be relevant to the individual premises and not “cut and pasted” from a schedule of standard conditions.

Above all, they should make sense and relate only to the licensable activities applied for. They should never be used as an exercise in micromanaging a licensed business.

Ultimately, it should be about assisting the premises licence holder in promoting the licensing objectives. You do not have to accept conditions just because they are what the Police or others prefer.

What is Ward Hadaway’s experience in this?

At Ward Hadaway, we submit, on average, three new premises licence applications throughout the country every week. Very rarely does a week go by without us having to resist the imposition of conditions which go far beyond that which is contemplated by the Act and the Guidance.

Without a robust change in approach, the licensing trade may find itself in danger of being overwhelmed by conditions that go far beyond what the law contemplates. This is particularly so with the increased influence of public health considerations on licensing application decisions.

What should operators do?

Operators should think carefully about conditions which are being attached to their licences and not automatically agree to them, otherwise in some cases they could find themselves trying to abide by effectively unworkable restrictions.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

We have years of experience in advising on licence applications and on contesting conditions looking to be imposed on licences.

For more information on how we can help, 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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