Seek permission before renovating

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Related tags: License, Public house, Essex

It is still a regular occurrence that licensees are altering premises in ignorance of the fact that it is a legal requirement to gain prior consent...

It is still a regular occurrence that licensees are altering premises in ignorance of the fact that it is a legal requirement to gain prior consent from the justices before work starts. Remember, too, that these alterations need not be structural ones in order to require consent; even starting to use part of the premises for customers which was not previously open to them comes within this section of the Licensing Act. This apparent ignorance of the necessity for consent before making changes is not confined to individual traders or new entrants to the trade. Major breweries are regularly called upon to explain themselves before the courts when they have undertaken refurbishment or upgrading of public houses and their relevant departments have omitted to mention the fact to the justices. It is therefore understandable that the bench may in some cases feel very angry that its authority in such matters has been ignored, and they could if so minded, cause the breweries concerned a great deal of time and expense. It is quite within the bench's powers to order the premises to be restored to the condition shown on the deposited plans within a specific time. In case you think such a step is not taken, I remember the case of a listed pub in Essex only a few years ago that was ordered to make restoration after major building works. Listed pubs are not uncommon, and you knock out walls at your peril. The alternative remedy for the justices, in serious cases, is the forfeiture of the licence. Because both remedies are fairly drastic steps to take, some benches have been content with handing out a "rap over the knuckles" to the offending licensee or brewery, and examining the alterations in detail to ensure that they would have consented in the first place. One important point is the situation where alterations were carried out by the previous tenants or owners and have not come to light until a further application is made. I think it would be unfair for the present tenants to be penalised for a default made earlier, but the justices do appear to have wide powers on this issue. Fortunately, much of this will be swept away in licensing reform, because the plan supplied to the licensing authority will be a plan of the premises as they are now, creating something of an "amnesty" for those who did not obtain prior consent.

Related topics: Legislation

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