It was only a matter of time, of course, before someone came along and spoiled the party.
The Manchester environmental health officer who thinks that a two-for-one cocktail offer "encourages drunkenness" will undoubtedly be joined by others who will selectively read the regulations on irresponsible promotions and take the hard line.
The problem here is that issuing diktats to licensees in an uncompromising way is not good regulation. Throughout the life of the new Licensing Act, the emphasis has been on partnership working, with active discussions to take place between the trade and the administrators in an attempt to reach common ground.
Sending out a letter baldly ordering a trader to "stop" a promotion that has already been implicitly passed by two other authorities seems to lack any sense of co-operation and immediately raises the hackles of all those licensees who might be affected.
It is, I suppose, much easier to see the regulations in black and white terms rather than have to evaluate the likely effect of a particular promotion. As we have constantly reminded readers, the licensed trade is full of promotions of one sort or another that do not lead to drunkenness or disorder in the vast majority of cases.
They are, of course, incentives to buy, and many of us may well be attracted by a two-for-one offer; but of itself, this is not irresponsible in the context of the general trading done by this particular outlet.
One suggestion that practitioners have very sensibly put forward is that prior to any promotion licensees should undertake a risk assessment, and should write this down and then monitor the effect of the promotion on trading patterns and behaviour. This is not difficult to do — anyone will look carefully at a promotional offer anyway, to see if it has been worthwhile.
But I have often emphasised that writing such things down — rather like keeping a written record of refusals to serve underage customers — is worth its weight in gold if it comes to legal action against the premises.
There have been recent examples of evidence brought forward by police and licensing officers of no records being kept as showing a lack of due diligence. So the importance of such records cannot be stressed too much.
So make sure all your promotional activity is recorded and assessed in future. You never know when that material might come in handy.
Second licence for hall
Q. We use a local hall for temporary events. It currently has a premises licence, but this is for entertainment only and is run by the parish council. When we talked about an alcohol licence, they said it was not possible to have another licence and they would not wish to add alcohol to their own licence. Is this right?
A. If the hall is their property, then they have a right to decide what should take place there. However, as you say you have already run events in that location by using a temporary event notice, there does not appear to be a specific prohibition by way of a policy decision against alcohol on the premises.
One point that does need clearing up is this question of a second premises licence. There is nothing in the licensing law that prevents a second licence being granted for any premises and in fact a number of multi-use premises do have more than one licence. This facility is clearly stated in section 2 of the 2003 Act, for the avoidance of doubt.
If the committee was to relent and give permission for you to obtain a licence, you could simply apply for one covering the sales of alcohol. Then you would not need to give temporary event notices and could exceed the permitted maximum of 12 a year, because the licence would not be limited in respect of occasions.
In terms of cost, however, it would be preferable for the parish council to apply for a variation of the licence, under which you could then operate in future.
Staff eating on duty
Q. I have recently moved jobs as a bar manager in a town centre with a busy snack trade. When I arrived, I found staff eating sandwiches and snacks during their shift, which I assumed was contrary to hygiene laws. However, they say that customers are eating there and it is a food area, so it is OK for them as well. Is this true?
A. Customers are not covered by the same regulations as staff. You must enforce good hygiene practices, or you and the company risk eventual prosecution under the Food Safety Act, or at least a ticking off from any health inspector who is likely to be patrolling where your high-visibility premises are located.
Under the relevant regulations, persons working in food rooms, which include pub and club bars, must use hygienic practices, among which are the requirement to refrain from smoking, spitting, eating or drinking while handling food. This is to avoid the risk of contamination from saliva transferred to hands.
In any event, it is not a very good advertisement for the premises. Presumably, staff are allowed a break to take their meals. They should only eat in areas set aside for it, not behind the bar.
Smoking in my car
Q, One of my regular customers has said I cannot smoke in my own estate car, because it advertises the name of the pub on the side and is used for business purposes. I cannot smoke in the bar and I do use the car to go to the cash and carry and to the bank. Is he right?
A. It is true that soon after the smoking ban came into operation there was a reported case of a workman who received a penalty notice for smoking in his van. That was because the van was used mainly for the purposes of the business and other employees were either present or used the van during the course of their work.
In fact, your circumstances are slightly different.
You enjoy an exemption under the regulations because the car is used "primarily for the private purposes of the person who owns it". So smoking is not banned in your vehicle, even when you are using it as described.