Outdoor drinking

Related tags Licensing justices Alcoholic beverage Public house Officer

The sun is out and spring is fully underway. As is usual at this time of year, pub customers turn their minds to having a drink outside in the sun...

The sun is out and spring is fully underway. As is usual at this time of year, pub customers turn their minds to having a drink outside in the sun and publicans kindly oblige by opening beer gardens and putting tables and chairs out on forecourts for that "café society" feel.

In an ideal world, extending your drinking area outside may sound like a fairly simple idea. However, there are considerations to bear in mind before going ahead and allowing drinking outside your premises. As a general rule, if you are the holder of an on licence then you are permitted to serve customers alcoholic drinks for consumption both "on" and "off" your premises. This permits customers to buy a pint of beer and drink it in a beer garden, on the street, or anywhere outside of your premises.

Before allowing customers to take drinks outside, you should check that there are no conditions or undertakings on your licence that prevent you from making "off" sales. If you have given an undertaking preventing "off" sales, then you will have to ask the licensing justices to release you from this undertaking.

If there is a condition preventing "off" sales then you may have to apply for a new licence.

After you have checked your licence, decide where the external area will be located. Some licensing justices will ask you to include external drinking areas as part of the licensed area on plans lodged with the court. You should contact the court to ask about their policy and discuss the proposal with the police. The court may require you to lodge plans showing the external area and you may be asked to submit a formal application to extend the licensed area. The planning officer at your local authority should also be contacted, as you may have to make a planning application to authorise the new use of the area.

Highways licence

If you intend to put tables or chairs on a pavement, or any other land owned by the council, then the situation becomes more complex. You will need to apply to the local authority for a highways licence, which would allow you to put your tables and chairs on council-owned land. You will have to pay a fee for processing the licence and it may take some time before it is issued. The council will need to see evidence that you have insurance in place to cover any liabilities, in case somebody falls over your furniture and injures themselves. You should also tell the court and the police about your application. Some courts will ask you to lodge new plans to include this area in your licensed area. Again, you may be asked to make a formal application to the court.

Other considerations

You will need to monitor external areas in the same way as your internal areas, to ensure that there is no disorder or underage drinking, etc, taking place. Any excessive noise coming from your premises could eventually lead to you being served with a noise abatement notice or the licensing justices could refuse to renew your liquor licence. You should consider serving drinks in plastic glasses for use outside, but do not forget to collect them and dispose of them properly.

Finally, do not forget about your public entertainment licence and special hours certificate if these have been granted to you. There may be conditions on your entertainment licence preventing you from allowing glasses or bottles to be taken outside, or prohibiting external speakers. Your special hours certificate will not apply to external areas and you should therefore bring your customers inside and shut the doors and windows at the end of normal permitted hours.

Related topics Legislation

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