Supervisors' ball and chain can be cut free

Related tags Personal licence holder License Dps Supervisor

One of the major problems that already seems to be emerging from local authority interpretation of the new Licensing Act concerns the presence of the...

One of the major problems that already seems to be emerging from local authority interpretation of the new Licensing Act concerns the presence of the designated premises supervisor or a personal licence holder.

There is a very rigid view held in certain parts of the country that the new law changes the accepted position on what is called "delegated responsibility". In my opinion it does not. Let me explain.

Currently, a justices' licence is granted in the name of an individual or a number of people, who become the "licensees". In some divisions, only one name is allowed on the licence. In the majority, a number of people can be joined.

The new act has, in one sense, reverted back to the old situation of having a single responsible person for the licence. That is the designated premises supervisor (DPS). Without that person, no sales of alcohol can be made.

So if for some reason the DPS is sacked or leaves suddenly, a new DPS must be employed immediately, and named on the premises licence, so that sales can carry on.

Although such a person is understood to be in day-to-day charge of the premises, nothing in the act or the guidance says that they have to be on the premises all the time. In fact, nothing in the act says they have to be there at all: a resi-dential requirement is not built in to the law.

In many small pubs and other licensed premises, the DPS will be the owner and the resident licensee. He will probably also be the holder of the premises licence. So for the majority of the time he will be present to oversee the conduct of the business.

But not all the time.

As now, he may have to go to the bank. He could be attending a pubwatch meeting. He may even be taking his wife on holiday. These ordinary, everyday activities of licensees seem to have escaped the notice of some Town Hall supremos.

They expect the DPS to be chained to the bar, only going upstairs when the last binge drinker has staggered over the horizon.

When the DPS is not on the premises, he can delegate responsibility to a member of the barstaff. He still retains legal responsibility for what occurs and if there is an offence, he can be charged. But he does not have to be there.

The same is true of personal licence holders. What the act says, and the guidance repeats, is that a personal licence holder may be responsible for sales (for example, when the DPS is a non-resident person or is away) but he, too, can delegate his personal responsibility by authorising a member of the bar staff to make sales on his behalf while he is not present.

Some licensing departments are telling the trade that it is a legal requirement for a personal licence holder always to be present on the premises when a sale of alcohol is made, and they are going to make it a condition of the converted premises licence, breach of which would render the holder of the premises licence liable to prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000 or six months imprisonment. Yes, they are even putting that in as a shock tactic.

This needs to be clarified before the new system starts. Yes, in the case of a large pub or hotel, there should be a properly-licensed duty manager who is present when sales are made to the public.

That is part of the overall due diligence of the operator and would be common sense.

But that is a far cry from telling a rural landlord that he has to have a qualified stand-in every time he leaves the premises.

Related topics Legislation Other operators

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