Responsibility for compliance falls with the premises licence holder, designated premises supervisor or an adult authorised by either of the above. Collectively, these are referred to as the “responsible person”.
The responsible person must take steps to ensure that staff “do not carry out, arrange or participate in irresponsible promotions”. Three of these categories are outright bans, namely the “dentist's chair” (alcohol being poured by another directly into the mouth of a customer); drinking games or other activities that encourage customers to drink as much alcohol as possible; and posters and flyers that glamorise excessive alcohol consumption. The others remain legal as long as they do not carry a significant risk of undermining a licensing objective.
However, it is often difficult to assess exactly under which category a drinks promotion would fall and whether this is banned or whether the event is permitted subject to a risk assessment. Falling foul of the prohibitive mandatory conditions could result in a breach of your premises licence and result in either a review and/or prosecution, both of which could be costly affairs.
The authorities may well require you to convince them that a promotion is not irresponsible, but this may not be as easy as it appears. You may find enforcing authorities arguing that your promotion falls under the 'games or other activities' category (which is an outright ban) when it should really fall under one of the categories which remain subject to the significant risk test. What constitutes a game or activity (as opposed to simply being a promotion) could well be critical to whether you are breaking the law or not. Many of these promotions will only be deemed irresponsible after the event (ie, if something goes wrong).
If your promotion is not subject to an outright ban, the Home Office guidance on mandatory licensing conditions gives some good pointers as to what a significant risk constitutes. For example:
Type of promotion:
- How big is the discount?
- For how long does the discount apply?
- Is there likely to be a significant increase in the number of customers?
- What is the profile of the customer base?
Type of premises:
- Is it a high-volume vertical drinking establishment or a community pub?
History of premises:
- Have previous promotions been handled responsibly?
- Has the licence been reviewed recently?
- Have sufficient security measures been taken for any potential increase in the number of customers?
The guidance can be found on the www.gov.uk website. If you are planning a new promotion and you are unsure whether it falls foul of the mandatory conditions then speak with your local police licensing officer or seek legal advice.