First come, first served?

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Local authority, License

Coulson: you must take the initiative on noise
Coulson: you must take the initiative on noise
If the music is obtrusive and disturbing, his neighbours will have a right to complain and the local authority will be bound to investigate. The fact that he was there first is of little help, says Peter Coulson.

The recent story of an entertainment pub in an old building in Newcastle having to close because of a nearby residential development, rang many bells with me.

It is an age-old story of prior rights, which the fair-minded Brits think is the law, but which unfortunately isn't.

I have a recent example from my postbag in this regard, and it joins many others. A licensee has written to tell me of the purchase of adjoining land by a developer who intends to put up housing on the site. The pub is a well-known local venue for music, and he is fearful that as soon as the houses are occupied, the complaints will start coming in. His point is that he was there first, and the incomers would know of the nature of the pub before they bought. Does he not have some form of preferential treatment if this happens?

I am sorry to say, no. The law on environmental pollution does not work that way. If the music is obtrusive and disturbing, his neighbours will have a right to complain and the local authority will be bound to investigate. The fact that he was there first is of little help to him.

However, there may be a faint glimmer of hope. As far as our reader is concerned, he needs to start now to lobby the local authority, in order to compel the developer to take account of the current situation and ensure that nearby homes are adequately soundproofed. Or he needs to take the bull by the horns and object to the development, on the quite valid ground that it will impact adversely on his business.

Some council planning departments are very aware of this potential conflict and will take it into account in reaching their decision. Others will be very proactive in these circumstances and will do a lot to try and resolve the situation.

But as I have often remarked before, doing nothing is not an option. The days of never looking outside your front door and paying little regard to what goes on across the street or on the building site next to you are long gone. A licensee runs a business like any other and has to fight for his corner, along with the rest. You are quite entitled to use exactly the same type of weapons as your opponents to ensure that you are not swamped with complaints as soon as the first removal vans arrive next door.

Q&A

Not on licence

Q. We are hosting an event at our pub, in conjunction with a promotional company, where a well-known former darts champion is taking on local throwers. We are selling tickets for the bar in which this is taking place, which can accommodate up to 200 people. We have started advertising this, but now find out that our licence may not cover it. What should we do?

A. It may well be that many licences that were originally converted during transition did not make any provision for "indoor sporting events" as one of the kinds of regulated entertainment covered by the Licensing Act.

Normal darts contests between pubs or in leagues are not designated as such events, because they are principally for the participants. But when you start to sell tickets, this means that the entertainment is taking place in the presence of an audience and for the purpose of entertaining that audience. This brings it within the scope of the Act, and you need authority for it.

It is too late to vary your licence, but as this is a one-off, it can be covered by means of a temporary event notice for the evening in question. Such a TEN does not have to involve alcohol — it can cover temporary entertainment as well. You serve the notice not only on the licensing authority but also on the police, who can only object on crime prevention grounds, which seems to me to be highly unlikely. As you do not serve the fire authority, it may be that capacity limits are not involved, but check whether there is a maximum, either on your licence or on the fire authority's recommendations.

As long as you have 11 clear days before the event, then you can serve the TEN to cover this darts exhibition.

Cash and carry licence

Q. We have moved to a new area where the cash and carry has asked us to fill out a status form with proof of business. They claim not to sell to the public, even though another well-known off-licence trader nearby does so and only sells by the case. Why are they so strict on this?

A. When the new Licensing Act came into effect, a number of definitions and exemptions changed, which may have affected certain types of businesses more than others.

Put simply, the general wholesale exemption for sales by the case has gone. It has been replaced in the new Act by a definition of the people that you can sell to without a licence, if you are a wholesaler.

Formerly, as long as you restricted sales to larger quantities (one case of wine or two cases of beer was the normal rule of thumb) you could sell to anyone without a justices' licence.

Now, sales without a premises licence may only be made to genuine traders such as licensees, off-licences, clubs and other retail premises, or people using premises for a temporary event. So legitimate cash and carries are insisting on a status check before they will sell.

Other off-licence chains who sell to the public already have a premises licence.

Third of a pint

Q. I have recently seen a suggestion to serve beers as "tasters" in one third of a pint. I thought the only measure now allowed was multiples of half a pint. Am I right?

A. You are not. It is still legal under the 1988 Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order. The quantities allowed for draught beer and cider are one third of a pint, one half a pint or multiples of a half a pint.

I have been advised that it

is still possible to obtain Government stamped glasses of one third of a pint, suitable for tasting or very strong draught beers, but obviously use of the measure is not widespread.

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