By David Clifton of thePublican.com's legal team of experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.
The work of the House of Commons standing committee debating the Licensing Bill continues until May 20. I, for one, will be watching extremely closely to see whether it returns during its debate to the subject of provisional statements - the new phrase for provisional licences.
Unless the bill gets amended, you could buy an extremely expensive plot of land, incur considerable expense in obtaining the necessary planning consent, building regulations consent and provisional statement all from the local authority, then incur massive expense in building your new licensed premises. On completing the work, you apply (again to the local authority) for your premises licence only to find that someone pops up out of the woodwork (it could be the police or a department of the local authority itself) to say either:
- he could not object at the time of the application for the provisional statement (because, for example, he was in hospital or on holiday)
- he believes there to have been a "material change in circumstances" relating either to your premises or to the area in the vicinity of your premises since the provisional statement was made.
If this happens, at the very least you are going to encounter delay before you can open. The worst case scenario is that your application for a premises licence will be rejected, meaning that you cannot trade.
In between there are a range of options for the licensing authority, including imposition of more stringent conditions, for example reducing capacity or placing an unacceptable restriction on hours.
Do you think this is fair? The government does. Do you think that it strikes the right balance between the interests of the community and the industry? The government does. Do you think it is appropriate to bring down the Parliamentary guillotine preventing debate on the subject by the standing committee? The government does.
Now is the time to do something about it. You can make your views known to thePublican.com or, better still, to your local MP or Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, or Dr Kim Howells, her minister.
But most important of all, do not delay in doing something about it or it will be too late.