Calling time on drinking up

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licensing act, Law

Coulson wonders if clarity is needed on 'drinking-up'
Coulson wonders if clarity is needed on 'drinking-up'
One of the main practical differences between the new Scottish Licensing Act and its English counterpart concerns drinking-up time. Section 63 of the Scottish Act retains the 15-minute drinking-up period.

But there is no mention of drinking-up time at all in the 2003 Licensing Act for England and Wales. As a result, there have been conflicting assumptions at local level on this issue.

In fact, with the exception of children, the actual consumption of alcohol under the Licensing Act does not figure strongly. It is not a licensable activity, and therefore what will appear in the operating schedule of each premises licence will be a statement of the hours during which alcohol will be sold or supplied.

In addition, the Act requires simply that the schedule should reveal “any other times during which it is proposed that the premises are to be open to the public”.

Clearly, if premises continue to be open beyond the time stated in the schedule for the supply of alcohol, that time can legally be used for consumption.

So, if the new agreed terminal is 1am and the applicant states that the premises will remain open until 2am or even 3am, then consumption may continue, but no further supplies may be made, on pain of prosecution.

In certain instances, representations have been made within the licensing objectives concerning closure of the premises, rather than hours for licensable activities.

Several councils are worried about places staying open for consumption of bulk supplies purchased just before the scheduled terminal, effectively defeating any desire on their part to have customers on their way home by a specified time.

The other route may be planning. If planning permission applies a restriction as to hours of opening, rather than trading, this can effectively act as a second string for curtailing hours.

There has already been an interesting case on this very point, and the advent of the smoking ban may see planning conflicts very much back in the picture.

Remember that there must be representations made: the council cannot currently restrict opening hours without them, although they may well be able to do so later this year.

And they must be sure that any restriction is within the licensing objectives and can withstand an appeal.

But one thing is true. There is no statutory drinking-up time under the new law, as there used to be, and it is up to the operator of the premises to say what time customers should leave.

Related topics: Other operators

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