Licensing changes never end

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Allergens law: Make sure you know food regs
Allergens law: Make sure you know food regs

Related tags: Personal licence, License, Government

There have been a lot of changes in the licensing world during the past 12 months and even more are proposed for next year.

The cynical lawyer (unlike me of course!) may say that the promise of deregulation and the reduction in red tape has been balanced somewhat by further burdens on the licensed trade such as the late-night levy, which had been adopted more widely in 2014.

However, the start of December brings the perfect opportunity to recap on the most significant changes which affect operators on a day-to-day basis. At the beginning of the year, excitement was building over the football World Cup.

Initially, the Home Office refused a request from trade bodies for extended hours to be permitted for pubs across the country in order to accommodate later kick-off times.

The Prime Minister intervened and a consultation was issued only for the Government to score an own goal and fail to extend the permission to pubs in Wales. Undoubtedly there was some embarrassment and by June, premises in Wales were permitted to apply for free temporary event notices to cover the later kick-off times.

Personal licences

Further awkwardness has prevailed in relation to personal licences. The Government issued a consultation on potential abolition in late 2013. However, the consultation garnered little support for removing the requirement for a personal licence altogether.

As a result, the Government announced in March 2014 that personal licences would remain, although the requirement to renew them would be abolished. The saga of how the renewal process would be dealt with continued into mid-November when the Home Office announced that the Deregulation Bill, which will remove the requirement to renew a personal licence will receive Royal Assent no earlier than spring 2015.

This leaves some personal licence holders who obtained the very first licences in 2005 in the position of having to renew their personal licence in the usual way. The silver lining is that the renewal process will be streamlined via an amended application form and no application fee, photograph or DBS certificate will be required to complete the renewal, although the personal licence must be returned if possible.

Another significant change was the amendment to the mandatory conditions. The first change came on 28 May 2014, in the form of a ban on the sale of alcohol below the cost of VAT and duty.

If you have received an amended version of your premises licence recently, you may have noticed this condition as a rather complicated calculation, which looks like something encountered in a secondary school maths lesson!

Risk

Further changes to the mandatory conditions were brought about on 1 October 2014, by the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) (Amendment) Order 2014. The most significant of these changes is the removal of the ‘risk’ test for certain irresponsible promotions.

Previously, the mandatory conditions featured a qualification that any drinks promotion was only irresponsible if it was carried out in a manner which ‘carried a significant risk’ of undermining one of the licensing objectives. The ‘dentist’s chair’, drinking games within a limited time-frame and flyers or posters that portray anti-social behaviour or the effects of drunkenness in a favourable manner are now banned regardless of any degree of risk.

The other promotions that still carry the ‘risk test’ are the provision of unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol being given away free or sold for a discounted fee and the provision of free or discounted alcohol as a prize to encourage or reward the purchase or consumption of alcohol during a period of 24 hours or less.

The area of change that has required operators to train their staff even further has been in relation to small measures. In short, there is a positive burden on staff to make customers aware of smaller measures where they do not specify the quantity or measure they would like. Finally, and conveniently in time for the festive period, changes to the food allergen regulations take effect from 13 December 2014.

In a nutshell (no pun intended!), customers have to be able to access a list of the ingredients contained in any food you serve and if the food you serve contains any of the 14 allergens listed in the regulations, you will need to specifically list those ingredients. Perhaps not the most drastic year of change in regulatory law, but still a lot to take in.

I wonder if the Government truly comprehends the amount of time, money and worry licensees expend trying to keep up with this flurry of change, and to train their staff accordingly?

Related topics: Licensing law

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