Avoiding private party problems

Related tags Alcoholic beverage License Officer

I have had a communication from an irate reader who says he has been banned from holding a private party in his bar after hours, because his local...

I have had a communication from an irate reader who says he has been banned from holding a private party in his bar after hours, because his local police say that the Licensing Act prohibits the supply of liquor in the bar, however it is made.

I do not think this is right.

There is nothing in the Licensing Act which prevents a landlord from entertaining private friends at his own expense outside of permitted hours in any area of the pub, including the bars.

Prior permission for such an event from the police is not required, nor is any form of prior notification.

However, I have always recommended to licensees that when they do contemplate a situation where drinking outside the legally permitted hours will be taking place in the licensed part of the premises, it is a sensible precaution to advise the local duty sergeant in advance.

This will not only avoid a potentially unpleasant scene at the time, if the police suspect illegal drinking, but can also help tocreate a better relationship all round with your local officers.

There have, in the past, been several cases where individual officers have sought to veto the holding of such parties, either generally in pubs in their area, or specifically when advised by licensees.

In certain districts where a number of offences have been committed outside hours, this caution is understandable.

But it can never be made a general rule for the conduct of licensed premises; nor can the entertaining of bona fide friends of the licensee after permitted hours be an offence when it is specifically provided for in the Licensing Act.

The officer's quoting of the prohibition on the "supply" of drink outside permitted hours is accurate insofar as section 59 of the Act prohibits both sale and supply after time, thereby catching drinks which are not actually paid for.

But the concession for private parties overrides this prohibition, and their location on the premises is not mentioned.

For example, there is nothing in the Act to suggest that a private party in the restaurant or bar of a pub is any more illegal than one held in the private quarters, which may still form part of the licensed premises for the purposes of the Act.

There have been instances when the police have suggested that an extension must be sought from the local magistrates before private parties can be allowed.

This is only necessary where there is some suggestion either of payment by someone other than the licensee/host for the supply of drinks.

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