Peer polycarbonate pressure

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licence, License, Local government

Coulson: fear of blanket glass bans
Coulson: fear of blanket glass bans
The calls for polycarbonate glasses have begun again, says Peter Coulson.

My optimistic mood of last week concerning the attitude of the House of Lords towards mandatory and discretionary conditions has somewhat evaporated.

It is human nature that when someone is presented with a condition-making power, they go ahead and invent a set of conditions to cover every eventuality. It happened with children's certificates and it may well happen with the local authority list as well.

I see that one peer wants to include polycarbonate glasses on the list. This may lead to a spate of proposals from the toffs in ermine as to how the drinking classes may be controlled! Given the opportunity for hair-raising stories, it seems likely that some of the peers will rally to a whole raft of extra conditions, and that

the Government, only too willing to be seen to be responding to the demand for stricter controls, will allow them in.

It is not a good idea, in my view, to put all these possibilities in the heads of local authority licensing committees. It is all very well saying that such conditions can only be used in specific circumstances. We have already seen evidence that if a control power is placed on the statute book, by whatever means, it will be used, and often not exactly in the way the policy-makers intended.

What particularly offends is the very fact that the Home Office wants to place additional burdens on the licensed trade generally, when every licence in the land is already subject to a potential review hearing, at which there are no fixed conditions and there is a general power for the licensing committee to tailor any additional conditions to the circumstances of the pub.

So how is this system failing? It has already been praised as giving extra controls to local authorities. It is being used, so we hear, to target not just individual pubs but complete sets — as in Oldham and now, apparently, in Hastings.

At least if there is a review, the exact circumstances of the individual pub can be examined. If you run good, properly-managed premises in the middle of some pretty poor ones, why should you be included in the general chorus of disapproval? Should you not be able to present your own case and combat any allegations made against you? It is little wonder that the majority of the licensed trade think this latest proposal is unnecessary and unfair.


Holding the licence

Q. We have a licence summary supplied by the local council posted up at the front door giving all the details of this managed house, including my name as DPS, but clearly I am not on the premises all the time. I have now been told that we need another notice next to this summary stating who holds the licence. It is in the pub safe, to which I and another manager hold the key. Can you explain what my actual legal position is on this?

A. In spite of what was said at the time about streamlining, there is still an awful lot of paper floating around the licensed trade! It is true that the Licensing Act requires a notice to be placed stating who holds the licence. The Act also requires the licence to be produced on demand, even though the person who is in a position to demand it, be they the police or the licensing authority, already know that the licence exists and what it contains.

There is still some debate about whether there is a legal requirement to produce it instantly. The only reason this could be required is where the police intend to seek enforcement of a condition of the licence that does not appear on the summary. Other than that, there seems little point in having a paper version instantly available.

The original version of the licence, or an authorised copy, must be held on the premises to which it relates. It must not be retained at head office. So perhaps it is best if the licence is kept in a place where it can be accessed by whoever is the duty manager at the time, and that fact is displayed at the entrance to the premises. It is only a requirement to display the position held by the licence-keeper. The DPS or premises licence holder should have nominated each of the duty managers in writing to be the "holder" of the licence for the purposes of the Licensing Act.

Abandoned baby?

Q. Many years ago I remember reading a question on your page asked about babes in arms and whether they were treated as children under the licensing laws. Has the new Licensing Act changed the situation at all?

A. The new laws treat children differently, but it will depend on the conditions currently on your licence.

If you have "inherited conditions" placed on your licence on transition you may well have a repeat of the under-14 prohibition (unless you had a children's certificate at the time). That prohibition was universal — any child under 14 would not be allowed in the bar, even with their family.

But now, the key word is "unaccompanied". Children under 16 who are not accompanied are prohibited from the bar. But they may be there with their families.

So by definition a babe in arms is now exempt, but if you have the embedded restrictions a baby is not exempt! See how silly the law can be?

Multiple measures

Q. I have recently switched to 35ml measures for my spirits. Can you tell me whether it is legal to serve multiple measures in the same glass, or can you only serve the larger measure as it stands?

A. The Government is currently looking to enforce single measure availability in all premises. But currently, the relevant Weights & Measures Order actually states that "a multiple" of the stipulated measure may be used, as long as the same quantity is in use throughout the premises.

So according to the law, you can put as many shots as you like in one glass, usually on the instructions of the customer. But you cannot mix 25ml and 35ml measures for gin, rum, vodka or whisky on the same premises, even in different bars. You must stick to the same measure for these particular spirits everywhere.

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